What? There?s news in peer review?

People linkurl:love to complain;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/23061/ about peer review. (The system is too secretive, reviewers nix their competitors? papers, etc.) Still, very little ever changes in peer review, so the same complaints circulate for years with no noticeable effect. So when something potentially system-altering happens, it?s newsworthy. Last week, Nature performed such a service by introducing a linkurl:new feature;http://blogs.nature.

By | June 15, 2006

People linkurl:love to complain;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/23061/ about peer review. (The system is too secretive, reviewers nix their competitors? papers, etc.) Still, very little ever changes in peer review, so the same complaints circulate for years with no noticeable effect. So when something potentially system-altering happens, it?s newsworthy. Last week, Nature performed such a service by introducing a linkurl:new feature;http://blogs.nature.com/nature/peerreview/trial/ that lets readers peer review submissions to the journal at the same time the journal sends the paper to ?official? peer reviewers. The feature will continue for three months, to allow the journal to measure the value of this type of open system. Scientists who comment on the paper must identify themselves, and the journal is careful to insist that the papers are not ?in press? or endorsed by the journal. The latter point likely attempts to address criticisms that open publishing would enable any group to associate itself with Science or Nature just by sending in a paper for open review, since everyone would see the paper on the journal?s Web site. The insistence that Web reviewers sign their reviews is also interesting, given that Bernd Pulverer, editor of Nature Cell Biology, said in our February cover story on peer review that biology is too competitive to foster a system of signed reviews. ?I would find it unlikely that a junior person would write a terse, critical review for a Nobel prize-winning author,? he said. It?s unclear how much weight the journal will give to comments posted from Web users. The Nature site says editors ?may take into account? the comments when making their decision. Which means that commentators will remain in the dark as to whether editors actually listened to what they had to say, or simply added this feature to demonstrate its progressive attitude. I guess that, when it comes to peer review, there are limits to how open Nature is willing to be.

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