September 19, 2021

Article: "Publish-or-Perish: Peer Review and the Corruption of Science"

From a Column Article by David Colquhounin in The Guardian:

So what can be done about scientific publishing? The only service the publishers provide is to arrange for reviews and to print the journals. And for this they charge an exorbitant fee, a racket George Monbiot rightly calls “pure rentier capitalism”.

There is an alternative: publish your paper yourself on the web and open the comments. This sort of post-publication review would reduce costs enormously, and the results would be open for anyone to read without paying. It would also destroy the hegemony of half a dozen high-status journals. Everyone wants to publish in Nature, because it’s seen as a passport to promotion and funding. The Nature Publishing Group has cashed in by starting dozens of other journals with Nature in the title.

There is just one problem with self-publication and post-publication review. In 2006 Nature magazine tried it and it wasn’t popular. Most people who were asked didn’t want to take part, and, more important, most people who were invited to comment declined to do so. The probable reason is the exceedingly competitive nature of research in many fields. A junior person might be terrified to criticise a senior person, and senior researchers might similarly be terrified of criticising each other, in case the person criticised was reviewing their next grant. Nevertheless, I suspect this sort of system has to come and there are things that could be done to ameliorate the problems.

Read the Complete Article

David Colquhoun is professor of pharmacology at University College London.

Note: The column also includes comments from Dr Charlotte Paterson, Peninsula College of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Exeter and Roger Jones, editor of the British Journal of General Practice.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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