Peer-review is Cinderella’s lost shoe

Scientific publishers are in some respects like Cinderella. They used to provide an immense service to the scientific world, by disseminating  new results and archiving old results into books. Before the internet era, like Cinderella at the ball, they were everybody’s darling.

Enters the net. At the last moment, Cinderella tries to run from this new, strange world.

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(image taken from here)

Cinderella does not understand  what happened so fast. She was used with the scarcity (of economic goods), to the point that she believed everything will be like this all her life!

What to do now, Cinderella? Will you sell open access for gold? [UPDATE: or will you apeal to court?]

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(image found here)

But wait! Cinderella forgot something. Her lost shoe, the one she discarded when she ran out from the ball.

In the scientific publishers world, peer-review is the lost shoe. (As well, we may say that up to now, researchers who are writing peer-reviews are like Cinderella too, their work is completely unrewarded and neglected.)

In the internet era the author of a scientific research paper is free to share his results with the scientific world by archiving a preprint version of her/his paper in free access repositories.  The author, moreover, HAS to do this  because the net offers a much better dissemination of results than any old-time publisher. In order (for the author’s ideas) to survive, making a research paper scarce by constructing pay-walls around it is clearly a very bad idea.  The only thing which the gold open access  does better than green open access is that the authors pay the publisher for doing the peer review (while in the case of arxiv.org, say, the archived articles are not peer-reviewed).

Let’s face it: the publisher cannot artificially make scarce the articles, it is a bad idea. What a publisher can do, is to let the articles to be free and to offer the peer-review service.

Like Cinderella’s lost shoe, in this moment the publisher throws away the peer-reviews (made gratis by fellow researchers) and tries to sell the article which has acceptable peer-review reports.

Why not the inverse? The same publisher, using the infrastructure it has, may try to sell the peer-review reports of freely archived articles AFTER. There is a large quantity of articles which are freely available, in open access repositories like arxiv.org. They are “published” already, according to the new rules of the game. Only that they are not reviewed.

Let the publishers do this! It would be a service that is needed, contrary to the dissemination of knowledge service which is clearly obsolete. (See also Peer-review turned on its head has market value.)

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11 thoughts on “Peer-review is Cinderella’s lost shoe”

  1. An interesting proposal but I think it has a fundamental flaw: most content in ARXIV and most institutional repositories has already been, or is being, peer reviewed by some journal and the repository publication is in addition to journal publication – provided it gets accepted. There are, of course, repository deposits to which this doesn’t apply – such as dissertations, theses, presentations, teaching materials, etc – but I can’t see who would want to pay for getting those peer reviewed when they go through their own various vetting processes already.

  2. Thank you for the comment. About a third of articles from arxiv.org are eventually published in peer-reviewed journals, according to their own statistics. Anyway, arxiv.org articles are cited frequently, published or not.

    The peer-review process is used for two purposes: lending authority and economy of time. The peer-reviewed journal lends the authority of the anonymous referees to the published article. Also, the interested reader tends to select peer-reviewed articles from the sea of all articles, instead of reading all of them and taking a really informed decision.

    The second purpose looks more viable and interesting, in these days of quick access to information (and hearsay).

    For “who would want to pay … ” see my previous post Peer-review turned on its head has market value and the links therein.

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