Peer review of academic papers a thing of the past?

My colleague Deborah Morrison pointed my attention to an interesting piece in the New York Times. The piece referred to a group of people who have become critical of the “…the monopoly that peer review has on admission to career-making journals and, as a consequence, to the charmed circle of tenured academe. ” Instead they suggest that the Internet should be used to bring research to a wider audience to help decide the value of the work. It’s an ongoing discussion and Nigel Hawkes in the Independent goes as far as saying that: “Peer-reviewed journals aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.” Strong stuff! The issue at stake in the publishing game is tenure  and his argument is that if a highly ranked peer-reviewed journal rejects a paper then it will be sent to the next one down ranking list, and the paper will be published there.  David Gorski adds to the discussion in Science-Based Medicine by saying that it is bad, biased and incompetent peer-reviewing that needs to be clamped down upon.  He points to two key issues: incompetence and bias and I dare say he has a point. Let’s once and for all reject bad research.

I my role as an educator I have seen cases of material being “lifted” entirely uncritical from the Internet. This makes me wary of putting research to the poll on the Web, in order to decide whether it is “good” research. You can say whether it is of interest to readers but will an Internet poll tell you whether it is good? Good as in unbiased and well-documented research?

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At last, some news

Never leave a long time in between blog posts. It’s so difficult to decide where to start.

  • Europe as a no-fly zone because of volcanic ash? (I was affected, were you? And it’s back!)
  • The never-ending story that is the Greek economy? (Ohh dear!)
  • The UK election? (No, I’m leaving that. It’s tomorrow and I can’t vote.)

Well, quite apart from the fact that I can’t vote then it’s rather interesting to watch the debate and hear what the candidates don’t say. I find this so much more interesting than what they say. Don’t you agree? No one really wants to talk about how to straighten out the economy and how the inevitable tightening of belts will happen. And then the election campaign is of course spiced up by various gaffes by our three main contenders.

One might have thought that with the Euro zone and the IMF pooling their funds and coming up with €110bn that we would have seen the last of the big-letter headlines. Not so. The front page of WSJ Europe screams “Markets unhappy with deal” today. The market is not reacting in the way it was hoped which could be seen as a signal that the market does not believe in the Greek ability to straighten out the situation and also that growth is unlikely.  This is certainly what Paul Krugman suggests in the New York Times.

And yes, I know it’s some time ago and I hope all those stranded have now managed to return to their homes but the shutdown and subsequent repercussions of the volcanic ash from Iceland showed beyond doubt how a large part of the work has come to rely on air travel. I was supposed to fly out on the day it all began and of course I didn’t get anywhere.  At least I could go home and unpack my suitcase but many were not so lucky. A new ash lcoud is drifting in, closing airports in Ireland and the UK so lets see how long this lasts. This morning Edinburgh looked OK with only a few flights cancelled but now most flights into and out of Edinburgh are cancelled. While checking this I noted that the BAA website suddenly has a new button “Volcanic ash FAQs“.

I’m to fly out on 14 May so I hope it’s gone by then!

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