Editorial: Publish And Be Damned
I know, it’s not chemistry, but interesting things are brewing over at Nature. You see, they’re changing their peer-review process, and adding a new option for authors (so far only for Nature
Chemical Biology edit: actually, only Nature just now). It’s currently working as a blog, where one can comment as on the Sceptical Chymist. This is the “open review” process, and clearly means that the sample-size of their referees has grown hugely. But the demographic of those lauding or critisisng the work has also changed to a more web-literate (and potentially younger) audience.
This is an important move; Nature is a prestigious journal, and this development will be closely watched by journal publishers around the world. Currently, authors still have a choice; the old method, of a select group of referees,
paid by the publishers, (edit – nope, they’re not paid; such generous souls ) and returning a closed decision on the prospective publication, or the new method. Clearly, as well as having a financial benefit to the publishers, the open nature of the new process removes at least some of the critical and q/c burden from the publishers. But will those commenting online simply be two packs of opposing views, or will there be a broad spectrum of opinions?
This move seems to be part of a trend just now, a second phase of web development by the publishers. Of course, the first phase was the availability of articles online. This first move was ground-breaking, and I’m sure most of you reading this use this facility. An addendum to this (1.5, if you like) was pre-published articles; ASAP or Early View for example. This gave them a constant stream of output, and a second chance to pull an article before it reaches print. This latest development from Nature follows (and I cringe at using the term) a Web 2.0 evolution, and the fact it has been implemented as a blog is of no surprise to me.
Indeed, most of the journal houses have a blog associated with their website now, generally a stream of new connected to their publications. That would be of no interest (after all, they have news pages anyway), but there’s normally some comment associated with the posts too, which can be quite revealing. And then there’s the independent science blogs like this one, and a host of others (my favourites are linked to in the sidebar). But one thing I’ve noticed is that they adhere strictly to the 1-in-10 rule, some times with a higher ratio. This is a guide to readership. For every reader, one in ten will comment. And for every ten commenters, one runs their own blog. But for some reason, people are actually intimidated by science blogs; this does lead to a better signal/noise ratio (see slashdot science for a lower ratio…), but is a little disappointing.
So comment freely (you are relatively anonymous here, BTW), and please, please add your opinion to the Nature blog – this could be a critical turning point, and needs your voice!!!
Update: As you can see, I’ve clarified a few points (and corrected some incorrect points – oops). Sorry for that. Also, please check out this article on the Nature Website.