After reading one more post from the excellent blog Retraction Watch, this question dawned on me: if the classical peer-review is such a good thing, then why is it rather inefficient when it comes to detecting flaws or plagiarism cases which later are exposed by the net?
Because I have seen implicit and explicit blaming of:
- authors, seeking to publish as many papers as possible (because only the number of them counts, not their contents)
- journals, seeking to fill their pages with any costs, also failing to protect the authors which gave them the copyrights.
There is a missing link in this chain: what about the peer-reviews? I bet that many articles submitted for publication are not accepted as a consequence of peer-review reports which detect flaws or plagiarism attempts. However, so many other papers are published after they pass the peer-review filter, only to be found later as being flawed or plagiarizing.
I think this is the strongest argument against old-ways, let’s talk in private practice. It shows that even if the great majority of researchers is honest and dedicated to commit to best practices in the field, the very few who try to trick, to “boost” their CVs, escape undetected during the classical peer-review process because of the tradition to talk in private about research, to follow the authority paths, and so on. This practice was not bad at all, before the net era, it was simply a part if the immunitary system of the research community. On the other side, there is no reason to believe that flawed or plagiarized articles are more frequent now than before. The difference which makes such articles easier to detect is the net, which allows public expressions of doubt and fast communication of evidence (“don’t believe me, here is the link to the evidence, make you own opinion”).
Don’t you think that peer-review could get better, not worse, by becoming a public activity which results from the contribution of (few or many) peers?
On peer-review and the big value it may have for epijournals, or even as a publishing business model, see also the posts: