Research Publication Peer-Review vs. Research Proposal Peer-Review

Stevan Harnad harnad at cogprints.soton.ac.uk
Sat Dec 15 13:31:44 EST 2001


Research Publication Peer-Review vs. Research Proposal Peer-Review

I raise the following question for the research community to consider:

Why is it that the peer-review of research reports has been
"out-sourced" by the research community -- with the consequence that
access to its products (refereed journal articles) must be bought back
by the research community -- whereas the peer-review of research
proposals has not been, even though the peers doing the reviewing are
in both cases the researchers themselves, and do the reviewing free of
charge?

Here is my hypothesis: Gutenberg. In the era when print-on-paper was
the only way to disseminate and archive the research reports, the minor
costs of reviewing and certifying their quality became intertwined with
the major costs of disseminating and archiving them, purely because of
the expensive and inefficient Gutenberg medium of dissemination and
archiving. If the Internet had been available for disseminating and
archiving refereed research reports, there would never have been a
thought of charging for access to them, thereby blocking their
potential impact and uptake. The minor costs of peer review would have
been covered in other ways.

Research journals, like research funding bodies, are
quality-controllers. The latter determine which research meets the
quality criteria for financial support, the former, which research
meets the quality criteria for certified report (as having met the
quality standards of that particular journal: there is a quality/impact
hierarchy among journals). In both cases, the quality is reviewed (for
free) by peers, that is, by qualified experts in the research in
question.

Well, we are now in the PostGutenberg era; the Internet is indeed
available for disseminating and archiving refereed research reports.
Isn't it time we disentwined the peer review of our research reports
from the obsolete Gutenberg costs that are still blocking access to
them, by self-archiving them in our own institutional Eprint Archives,
both before and after peer review? 
http://www.arl.org/sparc/core/index.asp?page=g20#6

Stevan Harnad




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