Debating Open Access

July 8, 2013

Starting in April the UK research councils have pushed ahead with a policy that all research they fund must be publish in Open Access journals so that everyone has free online access to the research they funded. The issues involved are actually much more complex than this simple principle so it if you support Open Access you will agree that it is a good thing that they have rashly gone ahead rather than waiting for the inevitable long debate to reach some conclusions.

Now the British Academy has published 9 short articles by academics presenting their opinions. The British Academy supports the Humanities and Social Sciences and this is reflected in the fact that only one of the articles was written by a scientist (a biologist). The principles for publishing in the humanities are not very different from those in the sciences but support for open access from the humanities tends to be less enthusiastic than it is from the sciences.

One of the articles by historian Robin Osborne is particularly negative. He argues that academics should not be obliged to publish in open access because they get their skills and information from a wider range of sources than just those they are paid to look at by the research councils. He also claims that research should not be free to view by the public because they do not have the training to understand it. I think many people will agree with me that these arguments are outrageously misguided, yet he may represent the opinion of many academics in both the humanities and sciences so it is important to have these points debated openly.

The other articles recognize many of the complex issues involved such as the affect of open access on learned societies who are funded by their publishing empires and the wider questions about how peer-review needs to evolve. Another point made which is too frequently overlooked is the conflicting motivations behind the open access movement. For many scientists and mathematicians the main purpose of open access is to destroy the business model of private publishing houses who have been making vast profits by charging academics for their own research through their libraries. Just look up articles on the subject by John Baez or Timothy Gowers to see how true this is (the linked posts are just the most recent of many and I mostly agree with their views).

On the other hand the Finch Report which is behind the open access policy in the UK makes no mention of this and is only concerned with the need to make research more available to industry and the public. In fact they aim to protect publishers and increase the amount of the research funding spent on publishing in order to increase access. It is not difficult to see why this is. Elsevier is one of the top FTSE listed companies and the UK cannot afford to risk damaging such industry giants (even if they are really based in another country) Despite pressure from an academic boycott Elsevier-Reed have seen a more than 50% increase in their share price in the last year (see here for latest figure). They are also using their influence to push back on the extent of open access e.g. by arguing strongly against copyright reforms and trying to lengthen embargo times on green open access. See their position statements for the UK policy makers to get an idea of how this works.

Update: Robin Osborne has posted some of his article on the Gaurdian Network. It would be helpful if there were some rational comments to explain to him why it is wrong to stop the public reading academic research in case they misunderstand it.

Not Open_Access_logo2


UK Open Access policy launches today

April 1, 2013

The UK Research Councils RCUK have today begun the process of making all UK government-funded publications open access. Details of the scheme can be found here.

Some other countries are looking at similar initiatives or have already implemented them in some subjects (e.g. medicine in the US) but the UK scheme will be watched as a pioneering effort to bring Open Access to all public research.

Not Open_Access_logo2In fact the system will be phased in over a period of five years with 45% of publications to be open access this year. Both gold and green open access standards are approved. In the case of the gold standard publishers will be paid up front to make papers open access from the publisher’s website immediately from publication. The budget for this has been set at about £1650 per paper but there is considerable variability depending on the journal. It will be interesting to see if market forces can keep these prices down. Money will be allocated to research institutions who will distribute it around their departments. The figures are set out here.

The system will also accept the option of green open access where a journal simply allows the author to put there own copy of the paper online. Here there is a big catch: The RCUK will accept that the journal can embargo public access for six months or maybe even a year. To my mind this is not real open access at all. Publications should be open access from the moment they are accepted if not before. And there is another catch with this option. I don’t see anything in the RCUK guidelines to ensure that the document is put online by the author or that it will be kept online. For both open access standards it is not clear that there can be any guarantee that papers will be kept online forever. What if a gold standard journal disappears? What if a repository disappears? Under what circumstances can an author withdraw a paper? Perhaps there are answers to these questions somewhere but I don’t see them.

Another set of questions might be asked about how Article Processing Charges will affect the impartiality and standards of journals. You might also want to know if paying for open access up front will eventually reduce the cost to libraries of paying for subscriptions, or will they still always have to pay for access to papers published under the old system, and for papers that are privately funded?

I hope that the answer is that none of this will matter for long because another system of open access will evolve with a new way to do non-profit peer-review without the old journal system at all, but perhaps that’s just a pipe dream.


The Dark Side of Open Access

January 18, 2013

Not Open_Access_logo2If you are an independent researcher as I am you will know the feeling of despair when you find a reference to a useful looking paper that is hidden behind a journal’s paywall with no free version available on the internet. Research institutions pay subscriptions that allow their members unfettered access but the rest of us have to pay a fee. For this reason I welcome the gradual move towards open access journals that will eventually mean that all research is available online with free access to everyone, but there is a darker side to this movement that I am a lot less keen on. Let’s take Philica as an example of an open access journal that I would certainly consider publishing as a show of support. It accepts submissions in any subject and I particularly like it because its peer-reviews are made public and allow for dynamic changes when subsequent research supports or refutes a published work. Unfortunately there is a catch for independent scientists. You can only register to publish in Philica if you are a full-time researcher employed by a  university, hospital and other research institution. Apparently open access does not mean open to submissions from all authors [update: 21/2/2014 The policy at philica has apparently changed a little and independent researchers can apply for membership if they can show that they are capable researchers].

In the traditional publication model it would be very unusual to find a journal that placed explicit limitation on who could publish in its pages. It is not something I had experienced before, but with open access journals this is becoming more common. For now there are still plenty of small open access journals that take submissions from anyone, but will they last? I sense that the thin edge of the wedge is in place and as it is driven in we will see unapproved researchers driven out in an effort to reduce the costs of publication. The result could have unexpected consequences for science and society.

Green, Gold or Diamond

Open access usually means that anyone can access papers for free. This comes in different forms sometimes termed green or gold open access. With green open access the journal allows authors to place a version of their paper on the internet where anyone can access it for free. Usually they do not allow the typeset version produced by the journal in this way but there is nothing to stop the online version being updated to reflect all changes made as a result of the peer-review. This works for the journals because university libraries cannot rely on authors to provide the open access copy and must therefore continue to pay the journal subscription.

With gold open access the journal itself provides a free copy of every paper online. Some long-standing journals experimented with this option but found very quickly that libraries would cancel subscriptions cutting off the journals revenue stream.  In some cases they have agreed to allow open access after a delay of a few years but new research is most relevant as soon as it appears so this is not a very satisfactory solution. Under pressure from funding agencies the new trend is for the journals to move towards payments from authors as an alternative to library subscriptions, but the payments can be several thousand dollars per publication which makes life particularly difficult for areas of theoretical science that can produce many papers with a low-budget. It is of course especially difficult for most independent scientists who may have no funding at all.

For professional scientists the ideal standard for open access is now being called platinum or diamond access meaning that it is free to publish and free to access. However, this does not mean that it is open for anyone to publish. There is no name available for that level of standard because professional researchers do not feel a need for it. Their only real concern is to reduce the cost of publishing which impacts research budgets. In order to make diamond open access possible it is necessary to reduce the cost of running a journal to virtually zero. This is perfectly feasible since the essential work of editors and reviewers is done for free by scientists out of a sense of duty and career promotion. If journals are published online only, the costs are reduced to whatever is required to run a website. This can also be reduced to essentially nil if there is a centrally run infrastructure.

This week Field medalist Sir Timothy Gowers has announced a new initiative funded in France that will provide just such as infrastructure. Scientists will be able to pull together and quickly set up epijournals in whatever area of science they choose at virtually no cost. Although they will be free to charge a publication fee if they wish, this is likely to be very low or zero and reader access will always be freely available because the system will run on the back of the HAL archive which is an arXiv mirror and open access to all readers. This is not the first project that has tried to change the way that science publishing runs but because it will be available to all areas of research and will have solid funding support it is likely to take over as the major platform for peer-review. The catch for independent research is that you will not be able to publish in epijournals unless you can submit to arXiv and that is not possible for everyone.

The scientists and mathematicians who are setting up the system do not seem to regard this as a problem. They believe that any serious researcher can easily find the endorser required to allow them access to arXiv, but as 1700 researchers who use viXra can testify this is not the case. At present about 15% of papers submitted to viXra are accepted in journals after peer-review, but this figure is likely to diminish to near zero if arXiv based journals take hold. To be fair Gowers has said that epijournals could allow linking to repositories other than arXiv. Whether they allow linking to viXra remains to be seen. My guess is that even if the epijournal infrastructure allows it, most individual journals will limit submissions to arXiv. In fact they may go further and only allow submissions from categories within arXiv that are related to the subject areas of the journal. This will reduce the overhead of having to reject too many papers that are off-topic and with near-zero budgets to work with this is going to be an attractive option. This could mean that even authors who find themselves limited to arXiv’s generic categories such as general maths and general physics may find themselves unable to submit to journals. I hope I will be proven too pessimistic but it seems to me that the writing is on the wall.

Why Does it Matter?

You may well ask why this matters. It is clear from the many discussions about open access on the internet that including publication access for all authors is not a concern for professional scientists. Much of the drive towards open access is being piloted by mathematicians and mathematics is rarely a controversial subject. Apart from a few rare cases such as the work of Godel or Cantor, mathematical progress is accepted very quickly. It is hard to argue with a proof. It is unlikely that any barrier could prevent a good work of mathematics from being recognized even if it came from an independent mathematician without the usual affiliations. But what about subjects more infested with the interference of politics? Take climate science as an example. Would it not be very tempting for the establishment to be able to undermine the work of climate skeptics simply by hindering their ability to publish? I suspect that journal editors will find it all too convenient that they can limit who can submit research by such artificial means. The wedge will be driven in further and it will become harder for scientists on the fringe to get the credibility they need from publication, or even to submit their work to someone who is at least required to read and criticize. Science is sleep walking into a Brave New World where anyone can speak but only the approved few can be heard. I think that those who are leading the fight for open access need to understand this now before it is too late. They must define open access to also mean openness for anyone to have access to the ability to submit for peer-review. At present their only concern is to remove the financial cost of access. Later they will see that such short-sightedness also has a cost.


UK to make all publicly funded research open access

July 17, 2012

A few months ago the UK government announced that it wanted all UK research that is funded from public money to be available through open access. Now they have told us how they plan to do it. They will pay the journals a fee for each paper they publish.

In the traditional publishing system journals charge people to read a paper, or libraries are charged a fee to hold copies of the journal. In recent years this has moved largely to electronic systems but the principle remains the same. In some cases the authors may pay the journal a fee for their work to be available to everyone for free, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

Now UK researchers will have to use the open access system for all their publications if it is publicly funded. This has to be a good thing because it will make the research more widely available, but how will it alter the dynamics of research?

According to an article in the New Scientist the UK government has set aside 1% of research budgets to pay the open access fees, but the fees are estimated to be £2000 per article. This means that there will be enough to pay for one publication for every £200,000 spent on research. This does not sound like very much, especially in subjects like theoretical physics where many papers are produced by doctorates and post doctorates who dont cost much. Is it enough? Will the money be distributed unevenly with theory departments getting much more of it? Let’s look at it another way. The total amount they have allowed for to pay for the fees is £50 million. At £2000 a paper that is enough to pay for 25,000 papers each year. So how many research papers does the UK produce each year. The answer is at least 100,000 and perhaps several times that. Clearly it does not add up. So how will the system shake out? It will be interesting to see.


Should you boycott Elsevier?

January 30, 2012

Some people include a few notable bloggers are saying that we should all boycott Elsevier who publish science journals and sell them at a good profit margin. Does this make sense? I wont answer that question but Iwill make this point: Elsevier is a profit making business who can set its margins according to how well it can persuade people that its products have good value (e.g. by attracting good authors to give it a high impact factor), and how well it can keep its costs down (e.g. by attracting unpaid reviewers) Elsevier have been doing this a little bit better than some of its rivals. If a boycott now reduces these margins they will increase them for any other publisher that is used instead by those authors and reviewers. Result: back to square one.

Of course there are non-profit organisations that publish journals, but the cost of their journals is not really that much better and they are not necessarily better at being open access either. If they were, then there would be no publishers making profits. So is there a real solution to the problem? If scientists don’t want to pay a high price for someone to organize their peer-review they have to find an efficient way to do it themselves. They have already found efficient ways to do the publishing and distribution (e.g. arXiv). Now they have to do the same for the more difficult task of peer-review. Until they do that any boycotts will be a futile game of pushing lumps and scientists will have to continue paying the market price for a commercial service.

That is my opinion, what do you think?

Update: John Baez has posted another follow-up discussing what else can be done to replace journals for peer-review. Apparently the life sciences are now ahead of maths and physics on this!

 


Peer Review 2.0

November 27, 2011

Peer review is an absolute necessity for recognizing good science and rejecting the false, but the traditional method of journal based peer review is not keeping up with modern needs. The more prestigious journals are more concerned with the potential a paper has to enhance their impact factor. With so many papers to choose from they can happily reject many, not because they are wrong but because they are not sufficiently mainstream to attract quick citations. When they do accept they place the final version behind a paywall and charge the taxpayers who funded it $30 to read each paper. Is this right?

Different areas of science have different needs and the resilience of journal based peer review can in part be attributed to its flexibility. The needs of maths and physics surpass what the journals offer and as a result the peer review process has been largely replaced by internal reviews, submission to open archives. Where work is more theoretical and speculative the journals do little to decide the validity. This is determined by citations, open discussions and further research leading eventually to experimental tests (we hope). But even here the journals have not disappeared. They remain because students and postdocs need the official stamp of approval that the journal offers in order to move to their next job. Can this role be replaced?

The role of open discussion on the web is surprisingly controversial. In a recent post I queried a response to a question put to Brian Cox and Jeff Foreshaw in the Guardian. They were basically saying that blogging about science that is not yet peer-reviewed undermines the system. a littler later there was a similar article in the Guardian itself in which astronomer Sarah Kendrew defends blogging. But Cox and Foreshaw are far from isolated in their opinion. A link from that article leads to an interesting story about a question in a course about “Responsible Conduct of Research”. The question was as follows:

A good alternative to the current peer review process would be web logs (BLOGS) where papers would be posted and reviewed by those who have an interest in the work, true or false?

The correct answer according to the course is false. Lose a point if you thought otherwise. Well it is indeed the case that blogs alone cannot replace the current peer review system, but they are becoming increasingly important in discussing and judging some questions. Could it be possible to construct a system of peer review based on open web-based appraisals that would replace the journals? Nearly a year and a half ago I asked this question and suggested that a system based on something like stack exchange might be possible. It would not be easy and one thing is clear: It would have to be backed by people with more clout and credibility than me.

Happily some people who do have that kind of clout are now starting to think of the same idea. In particular Tim Gowers has been asking similar questions for peer review in mathematics (see here and here) As we have seen above, such a system is likely to be highly controversial as well as difficult to put together effectively, but at least it is starting to be discussed by people who matter. Mathematics is an area where it might work most easily because correctness in mathematics is very cut-and-dried. This is one reason why MathOverflow has been so much more successful than Physics Stack Exchnge. But as I said earlier, journal based peer-review holds its place because it is so flexible. To replace it we need a web-based peer-review system that can work across all disciplines.


viXra log top 10 posts of 2010

December 30, 2010

10 – “crackpots” who were right: the conclusion

For part of the year I ran a series of posts about “crackpots who were right” . This was the conclusion and it made it to number 10. The series as a whole did very well but none of the other individual posts were as popular.

9 – Energy Is Conserved (the history)

I also had a short but popular series of posts about conservation of energy in general relativity in which I argued at length with a number of other physicists who thought otherwise. This included a nice equation that shows how energy conservation works in a standard cosmology, something that many people claimed was not possible.

In an additional post I debunked a claim by Lawrence Krauss that energy is zero only in a flat universe, a claim that he had used to debunk religion! Krauss graciously responded but sadly I could not draw him into a longer discussion.

8 – Suzy at Last?

With many posts about the Large Hadron Collider and progress on its commissioning, it was a good time to speculate about what it might soon find. Personally I favour supersymmetry although we now know that this year’s data has only served to constrain the allowed parameter space. It will be interesting to see what come up next year.

7 – Quark-Gluon plasma seen in proton collisions – maybe

The LHC did some heavy ion collisions at the end of the year with spectacular results but the post that had the most hits was one about the report that a quark gluon plasma may even have been seen in single proton collisions

6 – Duff, String Theory, Entanglement and Hyperdeterminants

An especially nice outcome of this post was that I got to have a pint with Mike Duff and his students and talk about M-theory and their work on relations with quantum information theory. This inspired my recent contribution to the FQXi essay contest.

5 – Horizon: Before the Big Bang

The BBC ran a program about various theories proposed by a number of high profile physicists about what existed before the big bang. It was a bit misleading and unbalanced since it ignored the fact that many cosmologists still think there was “no before”.

Some people don’t like these kind of highly speculative theories and think it is bad science, but I think you have to be prepared to think outside the box and see where it takes you so that in time the correct theory can be found. So on the whole I thought it was a good program.

4 – Concentric Circles in WMAP

I was the first to blog about the paper by Penrose and Gurzadyan who claimed to have found circles in the WMAP CMB data. This was later disputed by other cosmologists but I don’t think the matter is completely resolved. Perhaps the more detailed data from the Planck observatory will answer the question when it becomes available. An interesting aspect of this story was the fact that peer-review had no part in it. The paper submitted to the arXiv and underwent blog review. Do we still need the journals?

3 – Vinay Deolalikar says P ≠ NP

This was claimed proof of the well known mathematical problem that carries a million dollar price tag. Deolalikar is an independent mathematician who works for HP. They issued a press release about the discovery that got a lot of attention.   The validity of Mathematical proofs is easier to resolve than physics theories and in this case the proof was found wanting after heavy discussion on other blogs. Again the official peer review process was not needed. Although there were not many comments here the interest in this story was so high that it made it to number three.

2 – A Fields Medal for Ngô Bảo Châu

When the fields medals were announced I was one of the first to report the results. One field medallist in particular became a national hero in his home country of Vietnam and there was a lot of interest from there making this the second most popular post of the year, wow!

1 – The Anti-Crackpot Index

And finally the most popular post was appropriately my anti-crackpot index designed to counter the Baez crackpot index. I have a feeling that this one will continue to get hits for a very long time.


Prespacetime Journal Focus Issue on Cosmology & Gravity: Call For Papers

August 11, 2010

The Prespacetime Journal will be publishing a focus Issue on Cosmology and Gravity. You are invited to submit your papers now. I am very happy to have been asked to act as a guest editor for this focus issue along with Jonathan Dickau. I look forward to reading the submissions. If you are interested in participating you need to read the Call For Papers and follow the instructions from there. Here is what we are saying:

We wish to receive submissions covering all aspects of Cosmology and both Classical and Quantum gravity. We invite both papers discussing empirical evidence, and those that cover developments in mathematical and theoretical Physics. Both review or overview papers, and those which dwell on specific research of the authors, will be considered for inclusion.”

We encourage the submission of both more mainstream and more unconventional or controversial work, noting that we have a policy of open peer review (which will appear in the same or ensuing issue) so that both authors’ opinions and scholarly criticism may be published. We reserve the right, however, to require a reasonable level of scholarship for any submission to be considered.”

Remember that even if we do not have room for everything and your paper does not make it into Prespacetime your work need not be wasted. You can submit it is viXra.org at any time where all scientific works are accepted. So you have nothing to lose, get writing.


Why do we still have the old system of peer review?

June 23, 2010

The scientific publishing industry is dominated by some big profit-making organisations who are apparently not well liked but are still embraced by the scientific community. Every now and then one of the publishing houses tries to raise its subscription prices by a zillion percent, there is a big outcry from the university libraries and finally they settle for a mere yillion percent and everyone carries on. Why is this?

The answer seems to be that the publishing businesses are quite clever. They bundle journals and sell them to libraries rather than individuals. These days the subscription includes electronic access. Few scientists now pop over to the library to get down a volume of a periodical, they look it up online instead. If the subscription is stopped the research centre loses electronic access to all the past issues as well as current ones. It is just not possible to give that up, so they pay up instead.

Scientists have tried to combat this by setting up their own open access journals and some of these are working quite well. But now there is a concept of impact factor that measures how good a journal is according to how well cited its articles are. The most prestigious journals can afford to filter our submissions that are not likely to get many quick citations so they keep their impact factors high. The impact factors are used to measure how good people’s publication histories are when they look for a new position. This creates a feedback loop that makes the big publishers very powerful.

So is peer review needed? If so, should it, and can it be wrestled from the grasp of big business? could it be done differently? Over at Quantum Diaries Survivor, Tommaso Dorigo informs us that he is due to give a presentation on such questions and he wants to know what we think. The comment section has some interesting discussions.

These days everyone with access to the internet can publish online without peer-review. if they are excluded by arXiv.org they can use viXra.org and of course there are many other archives that scientists use, or they can just publish on their own blog. But these are not regarded as real publications by the scientific community until they have been peer-reviewed. Despite the internet, the system is still based on the principle that you can “publish” when and if you pass the test of peer review. Peer-review is still important primarily because careful verification is essential (especially in mathematics, experimental physics, medicine etc) but also because of the role peer-review plays in assessing the worthiness of scientists when it comes to job promotion. The ability to make your work available as a pre-print before peer-review exists only as a compromise because the publication process is otherwise too slow for many fast-moving areas of research. Of course, not everyone sees it that way. That’s just one traditional view.

The existing peer-review process is imperfect in many ways aside from its cost. Good papers are rejected by peer-review and this has a real effect on the pace of acceptance. A good case study would be the science of climate research where some people argue that peer review has become corrupted and is biased towards one side of an important scientific debate. (see e.g. what Lubos writes at Reference Frame)

In a perfect world things would be done very differently. Repositories like arXiv and viXra would become the publishing medium and peer-review would become an open and public process of critical review by relevant experts. One simple approach would be to have ratings for articles using a system like Digg. This works nicely for news articles and is a good way to filter out stuff of little interest, but it is far short of peer-review. By the way, there is a site called scirate.com which allows you to rate articles on arXiv in this way but it demonstrates one of the most basic problems with these approaches: It is very hard to get anyone interested. Another site that suffers the same fate is arXiv1.org where you can freely make comments on arXiv papers, but very few people do. Another system that almost works is the trackback system where blog comments are recorded on arXiv itself, but the comments are moderated in a way that some think is biased, so it does not qualify as any kind or review. Citation counts form another indicator that is used, but they usually trace back to positive responses. Peer-review also needs to be negative when appropriate

A proper system of open peer review would have to go beyond basic rating and commenting. The process needs to come to some kind of consensus about the validity and general worthiness of a paper. The people who do the reviewing need to be experts on the subject. This means you need a system of identifying experts. This can be done by looking at their qualifications and position to classify their areas and levels of expertise, but that would be open to bias and the corrupt rule of authority, precisely what we want to avoid. A more open system might allow anyone to review and rate a paper, but the ratings would be weighted according to the reviewer’s reputation which is earned according to the ratings of their own papers in the same subject area. Could such a system work or is it just a Utopian dream? This is the question we discussed over at Tomasso’s blog with some interesting comments but no real conclusion.

There is no doubt that such a system would be hard to get working. You would have to overcome the reviewers reluctance to criticise in public. The existing peer-review system is mostly anonymous and for a good reason. Scientists are human and don’t want to be attacked for their negative reviews. If the process is not anonymous they may not be willing to air their criticism. This is a real issue but anonymity and privacy in the peer-review process also make it hard to challenge a review. The system takes on various forms of corruption, for example, journal editors have a lot of power to influence the peer-review process either by directly affecting the result or by selecting reviewers who they know will be for or against the article. This works in both ways, either creating journals where a group of people can publish low quality research, or excluding a valid opposing view to an area of research. More openness where the reviewers judgement can be further criticised in public should be an important goal. This does not necessarily mean that anonymity must be given up. That could remain as an option. It is really the privacy that creates the problems.

It is understandable that there is skepticism about the possibility of establishing a working system of open review. It is hard to get people interested, However, there are some websites that indicate that this problem is not insurmountable. Despite the initial odds, Wikipedia has established a huge system for building works of reference that attracts considerable expertise in many areas. Wikipedia specifically excludes original research and is not a suitable system for peer-review, but it shows that the right people will get involved if a system has the right features.

Another system that is closer in some ways to what we seek is stackoverflow.com and derivative sites such as mathoverflow.net. These are sites for submitting questions in a particular subject area. That is very different from the requirements of peer-review, but the rating system used is getting close to something that might work. On these sites questions are rated and so are answers. People can also comment on answers so anything can be challenged and this feeds back into the rating. People build up reputations according to how well their answers are rated and the reputations increase their rights to rate questions. There are also moderators who are elected democratically with reputation being an influence. These moderators can shut down off-topic discussions. Not only does this system generate a high level of discussion, it also attracts some well-known experts in the field to make contributions. A peer-review system would be something on a grander scale but the principle might be similar and the evidence is that it could work if the details are right.

The technology on which to base such a system exists. Many archives adhere to the Open Archives Initiatives which means they have an API so that you can query them and integrate them with other repositories into conglomerate systems. A peer review website could work that way.  There would be no need to start a new repository for the purpose . Despite Lubos’s flattering suggestion over at AQDS, it is not likely to be me who makes the first attempt at building such a system. It requires more than the technical expertise of one person I think. A small group with the backing of some big organisations would be more suitable.

Meanwhile I am looking forward to hearing what comes out of Tomasso’s presentation. He is a smart and reasonable person so perhaps he can kick-start something that will grow to be the future of peer-review. I just hope it will be a system that is open and not doomed to a fate of elitism and corruption. I hope it promotes honest scientific progress without stifling a valid new approach just because it does not fit the prevailing dogma. We can only hope.


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