September 19, 2006
Nature experiments with online peer review
Authors of papers submitted to the journal Nature can agree to a new form of peer review -- having the journal post their articles online for other scientists to critique. The online comment system is part of an experiment begun in June that is designed to test it against the journal’s standard peer-review process. Nature said it takes both processes into account when deciding whether to publish. The Wall Street Journal, which reported on the trial, said that 62 authors, so far, have given permission for their articles to be posted for critique, eliciting some 70 responses. Nature wrote on its Web page devoted to explaining the trial that it doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with traditional peer review: “Nature is always looking to improve its services to readers, authors and reviewers. New publishing technologies offer opportunities, which we are interested to explore. Hence we are undertaking this limited trial.” Piloting an alternative mode of vetting research also seems like a good idea in light of recent cases where traditional peer review let scientific papers, later deemed unworthy, slip through. An open peer review could catch errors that may otherwise go undetected. In the Nature trial, all authors whose manuscripts are being sent out for peer review are offered the option of posting their manuscript online. To make a comment, a scientist must be from the same discipline, and Nature requires a name and institutional email address. Authors can respond to the comments.