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Peer to Peer

June 8, 2013

ASK a researcher what annoys him most about scientific publishing, and slowness will come near the top of the list of gripes. It takes nearly six months, on average, for a manuscript to wend its way from submission to publication. Worse, before a paper is accepted by a journal, it is often rejected by one or more others. The reason need not be a fatal flaw in the research; sometimes the work is simply not splashy enough for outlets high up in the pecking order. But in the process, each journal’s editors send the paper for peer review—appraisal by experts in the relevant field—in much the way that each prospective purchaser of a house commissions his own survey. And, unlike those multiple, parallel surveys, the reviewers do not even get paid for their efforts.

Some publishers are at last beginning to twig that this is an awful waste of resources. Last month a number of them, including big ones like the Wellcome Trust, BioMed Central (BMC), the Public Library of Science (PLoS) and the European Molecular Biology Organisation, said they would give authors of papers they reject the option of making referees’ reports available to the other publishers.

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