Donnerstag, 17. Juni 2010

Preprint servers vs. anonymous peer review

Recently, I got a manuscript rejected. There's nothing wrong with that, I consider rejection as a part of the publication process. Or more precisely, as a stop on the way to the publication of a manuscript.

But what really was annoying is that the reviewers did not even seem to read the manuscript until the end. They criticized the lack of a specific kind of information. But this information was explicitely elaborated upon in the discussion part. Even after pointing them to the exact paragraph where the information was given, they did not acknowledge it (let alone say whether this satisfies their criticism). And then it took them two months and several iterations back and forth to finally reach their conclusion to reject the article.

This experience goes along with what I hear from colleagues, namely that they seem to get more and more rude reviews. Constructive criticism appears to be a rare good in neuroscience nowadays. In addition, it is not uncommon that it takes a year or longer from the initial submission to the final publication of the manuscript.

One of my thoughts was that probably the concept of anonymous peer review poses a problem here. As the pressure to publish rises, so rises the number of journals. These journals require more reviewers, who get more papers to review. It becomes increasingly difficult to devote the necessary time and effort to judge a manuscript in its entirety. In addition, there is no way the reviewers' effort is honored when peer review is anonymous. Journals like the Frontiers in... series already act up by naming reviewers on the published manuscript, in order to get the reviewers' contributions noticed.

I would definitely welcome an open peer review process, where reviewers are named from the first revision on, and the reviews are made publicly accessible. Preprint servers like ArXiv are pretty much what I'd like to have in neuroscience. You put your paper there, you get comments, you revise the manuscript, and at some point a journal or a conference will accept it. Your knowledge is accessible right from the first upload on the server. Efficient exchange of scientific results favors the rapid advancement of the field. Moreover, it is much less likely that you get scooped during the review process, since you can always document when you published the paper for the first time.

I will evaluate possibilities for this kind of publication for the resubmission of my manuscript.

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