Monday, March 8, 2010

Peer review

I've heard a lot of complaints about peer review, mostly from people who don't have to deal with it. I am not well-versed with peer review, since I've only published one article and my advisor did all the shepherding through the review process. From my perspective (as a now published author), it seems to work okay. Your peers give you comments, most of which (in my case at least) reveal places in the text that are unclear and need to be strengthened. I thought my paper was much improved by the peer review process.

I'm guessing in response to everyone else out there who claims the peer review process sucks and either doesn't catch everything bad or let through some "valuable contributions," the newest open source Earth Sciences journal, Earth System Dynamics is modifying their peer review process. The description on the website reads:

In the first stage, papers that pass a rapid access peer-review by the editorial board are immediately published on the ESDD website. They are then subject to Interactive Public Discussion, during which the referees' comments (anonymous or attributed), additional short comments by other members of the scientific community (attributed) and the authors' replies are also published in ESDD.

In the second stage, the peer-review process is completed and, if accepted, the final revised papers are published in ESD.

I'm wondering how well it'll work. It's hard enough to get reviews when people are asked directly to review a paper. I have a suspicion what will happen is most papers will only get the fast review and will languish with nobody paying much attention. Controversial topics, on the other hand, will bring the cranks out of the woodwork and will see lots of comments.

I hope this experiment works. I hope this is a valuable improvement to the peer review process. I am simply skeptical that the time restraints each scientist faces will undermine the addition to the vetting process. But hey, I'm excited to see what happens!

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