On John Bohannon article in Science

In Science appeared the article Who’s afraid of peer-review?  by John Bohannon.  There were many reactions already to this article, I’ll add mine.

I shall politely pretend that the article is not a piece of propaganda against OA. (Remark, ironically, that in order to enhance it’s dissemination Science did not hide it behind a paywall.)

Then, it’s like a gun, which can be used by anybody for shooting in whatever direction they like.  Pick your line:

  • Gold OA journals are afraid of peer-review (because Bohannon uses a list made of exclusively by Gold OA journals)
  • Traditional peer review is a joke, should be improved by making it more open, and perpetual, (cf Michael Eisen)
  • DOAJ is a joke (because Bohannon used DOAJ as one of the sources for building his list and some of the DOAJ listed journals accepted the flawed articles)
  • DOAJ is not a joke (not all DOAJ listed journals from Bohannon list accepted the flawed articles)
  • Beall’s list is good (a lot of predatory publishers from Beall’s list accepted the flawed articles)
  • Beall’s list is not entirely good (however, some of the publishers listed by Beall did not accept the flawed articles)
  • Study flawed, pay-back by Science after the arsenic life story (cf Mike Taylor)
  • All OA journals are bad quality (yes, and salami slicing publishing is ethical, provided is published by legacy publishers)
  • We should trust only ISI journals (sure, boss, but I like DORA)

What if, when faced with spin, we should instead declare that anybody has the right to make it’s own opinion, based on the abundant evidence available? Instead of looking at DOAJ through authority lens, why not acknowledge that DOAJ is a useful tool, not an authority argument. Same for Beall’s list. They don’t have to show us perfect lists, they just help us with some information. We have to use our brains, even if the legacy publishers don’t like that.  We don’t have to believe what  somebody say, based only on the authority of the person. For example look at Peter Suber’s post, you don’t have to believe him. It’s up to you to read Bohannon’s article, then Suber’s reaction, or Eisen, or Taylor, whatever you want to look at, and then make your own opinion.

It goes the same when it comes to legacy publishers, to ISI lists, to research articles. Read them, use as many information you can gather and make your own opinion. Don’t rely on authority, there’s something better these days, is called free access to information. If you are lazy and you don’t want to make your own mind, well, it’s not my problem, because, like never before in history,  information is not scarce.

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6 thoughts on “On John Bohannon article in Science”

  1. I completely agree with you! The whole fetish with peer-review is based around authority given to two to four unknown (but presumed competent by choice of editors) reviewers. I read that article as just pointing out the obvious: the bottom tier of journals is a joke that is perpetuated by the blind fetishization of peer-review. Because so much of popular culture treats “peer reviewed” as a stamp of authority, it has propagate into bureaucracies as an arbitrary metric. This is one of the reasons why I never write “peer reviewed” when I am referring to research on my blog, and why I get mad when I read a popular article that uses those words (you can imagine I am constantly mad).

    The only way to do science is to read articles and think for yourself, if you are not sure of your own judgement of the article then ask somebody you know and trust. In the end, it is all a network of trust. Pre-publication peer-review was built when the network was small enough that you were confident trusting a random sample of 2 to 3 people from it, but that is no longer the case.I really think the way forward is a combination of pre-print servers, machine-assisted search, and a blog network for review and discovery/sharing. The only hard point for this is research that directly impacts on human health or policy; some extra guidelines are needed there.

    As for selecting where to publish in, I like Jeff Erickson summary of my academia.SE answer: “Submit papers to the journals you cite most often. Don’t submit papers to journals you never cite.” A personalized impact factor.

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