RE: The “Mellen Mess” and the changing role of publishers

Blog comment to The “Mellen Mess” and the changing role of publishers (Coyle’s Information)

It is inevitable that traditional publishing practices are going to change and we can only hope they will change for the better. Scholarly publishing will change even more radically because, as you point out, the business model has been more or less unsuccessful for quite awhile.

I also completely agree about the importance of “post-publication peer-review” but unfortunately, the traditional pattern is still deeply rooted in scholarly communication. I am currently going through the “Ithaka S+R US Faculty Survey” for 2012 http://www.sr.ithaka.org/research-publications/faculty-survey-2012-us and found there (p. 14) “It is firmly established in the literature that ‘the peer-reviewed journal article is the primary mode of scholarly dissemination in the sciences and quantitative social sciences, while the more interpretive, historical, and qualitative disciplines rely heavily on the university press monograph with a varying mix of journal articles, critical editions, and other publications.’ Our findings support this perspective; respondents rated traditional formats of scholarly communication highly in comparison to other material types (see Figure 1). Virtually all respondents indicated that peer reviewed journals and journal articles are very important in their research, and about two-thirds of respondents indicated that scholarly monographs or edited volumes published by an academic publisher were also very important. A significantly greater share of humanists and area studies faculty members rated monographs highly than did scholars in other fields, but the monograph rated highly across disciplines.”

This just reflects the normal reluctance of faculty to change.

I believe that “post-publication peer-review” could fit into the traditional idea of “peer-review” but to be accepted, at least a couple of changes will be necessary. First, whatever system holds the resource must allow authors to submit updated versions, as now exists in PLOS One. Here is an example that has corrections and a comment. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0010137

The other problem is more difficult: to get scholars to comment publicly on the articles they read. Even a simple thumbs-up or -down from an expert would be useful. So far, public comments have not been very successful. I don’t know if scholars will want to do this unless they will get some kind of reward, or at least recognition.

Plus, there are a number of social problems, discussed in this recent blog post http://hardsci.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/reflections-on-a-foray-into-post-publication-peer-review/ and now there is PubPeer http://pubpeer.com
“PubPeer started from the lack of post-publication peer discussion on journal websites. Thus was born an idea for a website where open peer review was not intimidating to users, while maintaining the rigor and anonymity of the closed review process currently used by the major journals.”
They also add a revealing note: “The site has been put together by a diverse team of early-stage scientists in collaboration with programmers who have collectively decided to remain anonymous in order to avoid personalizing the website, and to avoid circumstances in which involvement with the site might produce negative effects on their scientific careers.”
The joys of academic debate!

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