I think comments in epijournals (or whatever other form of Open Access from A to Z) should be considered as a service to the community. Don’t believe me and please form your own opinion, considering the following adaptation of Wikipedia:Core content policies.
The motivation of this post is to be found in the dispute over the value of commenting, happening in the comments to the post “Why I’ve also joined the good guys” by Tim Gowers. There you may find both pros and cons for allowing comments to articles “published” in epijournals. Among the cons were comparisons of such comments to comments in blogs, fear that comments will actually damage the content, fear that they will add too much noise and so on.
In reply I mentioned in one comment Wikipedia. Because Wikipedia is one big example of a massively networked collaboration which does provide quality content, even if it is not hierarchically regulated. Please consider this: Wikipedia has a way to deal with vandalism, noise, propaganda and many other negative phenomena which, in the opinion of some, may damage those epijournals which will be willing to provide the service of commenting published articles.
I shall try therefore to learn from Wikipedia’s experience. The wikipedians evolved a set of principles, guidelines and policies which may be adapted to solve this problem our community of mathematicians have.
In fact, maybe Wikipedia rules could improve also the peer-review system. After a bit of thinking, if we are after a system which selects informed comments, done by our peers, then we are talking about a kind of peer-review.
What is the purpose of comments? Are they the same as peer-review?
These are questions I have not seen, please provide me links to any relevant sources where such questions were considered.
Here is my proposal, rather sketchy at this moment (it should be like this, only public discussion could improve or kill it, if inappropriate).
We may think about peer-reviews and comments as if they are wiki pages. Taking this as an hypothesis, they must conform at least to the Wikipedia:Core content policies :
- Neutral point of view: “All
Wikipedia articles comments and peer-reviews must be written from a neutral point of view, representing significant views fairly, proportionately and without bias”.
- Verifiability: “Material challenged in comments, peer-reviews and all quotations, must be attributed to a reliable, published source. Verifiability means that people reading and editing the
encyclopediaepijournal can check that information comes from a reliable source.”
- No original research: “All
material in Wikipediacomments and peer-reviews must be attributable to a reliable, published source. ArticlesComments and peer-reviews may not contain any new analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to advance a position not clearly advanced by the sources.
To those who will discard this proposal by saying that it is not possible to achieve these policies in practice, I recall: Wikipedia exists. Let’s learn from it.