random thoughts on science and tech... yeah, it used to be about electronic lab notebooks but that was a decade ago

Better Peer-Review,… and less money gauging by Journals

Now that I’m doing research outside of Academia and don’t rely quite as much on publishing to validate my self-worth J (and secure my family’s future), I thought I would not be so passionate or frustrated with the whole research article publishing process. I am, however, still trying to publish work from my last gig – and I try to peer review stuff ever so often.

…well, seeing the horribly archaic and unjust system churning away still really irks me.

I quickly skimmed a proposal here http://thinking.bioinformatics.ucla.edu/2011/07/02/open-peer-review-by-a-selected-papers-network/, while Googling for something totally unrelated (distracted once again).

I like the ideas. It got me thinking. I am about to search, hopefully find, critically read, and present a research article. I’m critically reading it, I’m (I guess – since I’m a doctor or something) considered an expert, and all that work and time goes only to further me and my colleagues that I present to, a lot of ‘value’ is lost to the world.

Now – with the internet – everything is ‘published’, even the random thoughts of drunken misfits at midnight. EVERYTHING! Well, everything that is, except for precious research that could help further humanity. That still has to go through an inefficient and unfair system that makes million$ for someone (?). Sure the stuff, sometimes, gets published – but it gets published in the form of a partial release of the information many years too late.

Why not publish everything, and have everyone that reads it review it (if they want, maybe throw in points systems for reviewing for incentive, etc.). And be able to filter according to quality based on the reviews. Of course, before ‘publishing’ we would want to require a couple reviews (so as to be able to assign quality to the work), but then just put it immediately up. I mean that would allow things to move faster. I could have, when full time working on the transcription factor NRSF, immediately seen NRSF research – if it was deemed unreliable or less important (less important to whom? I think all NRSF research is important) then I could take that into account, or if I deemed it unreliable then I could say so in a review. But if two random researchers with their own bias or agendas didn’t like it then I would never see it, or I would see it years later (when I’m working on something else).

Sure big publishing companies (since they don’t want to change their exploitation model) wouldn’t really like the idea, but ‘publishing’ no longer really costs much money (if anything).

The value the journals have right now is that they are supposedly culling and verifying the data, so that we only see good stuff. I don’t know that they should make so much money for that, considering there are so many journals and so much research that is published that they clearly aren’t helping us out too much. Back in the day when there was maybe one specific journal to your field and a couple big ones everyone read, you could just read through those to keep up. Now we search PubMed for our specific interest (and we don’t really keep up in general, I use podcasts while I’m running for that). Things like Faculty of 1000 already do a kind of post publication peer review that can help with staying up with the general stuff and selecting ‘better’ articles to peruse (they of course charge just like the journals, well they don’t charge nearly so atrociously for access to work they got out of experts for free).

Anyway, I’m ranting again (and I’m not even deep in ‘it’ anymore) – but the idea is, in essence, crowd source peer review, don’t waste a scientist critically reading a paper, let the scientist contribute to the story/dialogue,… I mean, who reads papers on NRSF? Mostly people pretty qualified to peer review it. Random people don’t just read these things? Heck if they do, let them review it, and weight their review, weight all the reviews in some way. Heck maybe they are more of an expert than a ‘doctor’ J

Okay, okay, you get the idea. The focus should be on quickly and completely getting all this research available. And then reviewing/rating that research thoroughly. Right now 2-4 ‘experts’ peer-review, sometimes blocking good stuff and sometimes allowing terrible stuff, that is in no one reviewing thoroughly – and it is not at all quickly or completely getting that information out.

Searching for stuff on the internet is a skill, we have to sift through the junk sometimes. But we figure it out, and there are tools that pretty effectively sift through things. Let’s just start publishing everything, it won’t take much time for people to figure out how to find the good stuff, how to rate things, make a system where all the experts that read it peer review it. So much wasted information and intellect, it drives me nuts.

Wow, I really go on diatribes about this. You all get it, right? Anyway, back to finding an article to critically read and share J… or maybe a blog entry to critically read and share, wouldn’t that be a shocker.

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