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Saturday, January 07, 2012

You think peer review as currently implemented suck ? Wait till it is going to be the only way to publish

Aside from the egregious case of a monopoly grab that is currently underway through the proposed new   "Research Works Act" bill (see the Scientific American blog here and Jonathan Eisen's post about a highly disturbing letter from the Ecological Society of America, or Michael Eisen responding to Elsevier's comments ), I find it interesting to read the following (emphasis added):

      (3) PRIVATE-SECTOR RESEARCH WORK- The term `private-sector research work' means an article intended to be published in a scholarly or scientific publication, or any version of such an article, that is not a work of the United States Government (as defined in section 101 of title 17, United States Code), describing or interpreting research funded in whole or in part by a Federal agency and to which a commercial or nonprofit publisher has made or has entered into an arrangement to make a value-added contribution, including peer review or editing. Such term does not include progress reports or raw data outputs routinely required to be created for and submitted directly to a funding agency in the course of research.
So the value added by a commercial or non-profit publisher is peer-review ? It certainly is not, unless you are on K-street. Nobody seems to say it aloud, so let me be clear on that: the only thing a commercial or non-profit publisher does is brand an article based on free external advice

Do you really think that a post peer-review publishing model (see The wrath of our discontent and Tim Gowers' Model of Mathematical Publishing ) could ever take off and provide a different way of evaluating Science if the current monopolies and gatekeepers can pass a bill like this ? In the affirmative, wait till you see the next one.

[Update: if you think publishers are not in the branding business, here is another proof: Tee-shirts ]

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