Feasibility of PLoS ONE’s Peer Review Model?
There is a growing urge to deal with the significant issues that plague both the peer review and the scientific paper format. The peer review issues concern the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of validating the quality of a scientific paper. The scientific paper issues concern the inflexibility of communicating more scientific knowledge, e.g. not limited by some journal paper page limit, complementary (raw) data sets or even corrections to the paper. Thanks to the advent of digital communication, these issues are now more apparent than ever. However, that does not mean that the solutions that are conceptualized or even practically realized are the be-all end-all solutions to our problems.
In this blog post, I express my concerns with PLoS ONE’s peer review and publication model as the model that can stand on its own as a/the new peer review model. I suggest some features that are based on existing concepts to complement their peer review system to make the transition to their vision of how (their) peer review should work perhaps more feasible.
What Scholars Want
The topic of today is if and how PLoS ONE’s peer review model stacks up to the traditional peer review models. To make that comparison possible, we need to understand the added value of the traditional journal peer review model. More specifically, we need to understand how effectively the traditional peer review system meets the demands of their scholarly readers and how PLoS ONE’s peer review model currently does it.
So what do the scholars/ readers really want when it comes to scholarly communication? Well, for one, they want accessibility to scientific knowledge. It does not matter how good the scientific knowledge is, it has to be accessible for scholars to utilize it. As equally important as accessibility is the scientific soundness of that scientific knowledge for a simple reason: access to faulty knowledge is useless. The third key element is that the scientific knowledge is relevant/ significant to them. After all, the productivity of having access to scientific sound knowledge is not very high if it is not all that relevant/ significant to them. Scholars need to be efficient with their time and read the things that can contribute to their research.
So journals that provide accessibility and guarantee scientific soundness? Valuable. Journals that manage to provide accessibility, guarantee scientific soundness and filter scientific knowledge on significance? Gold. Almost literally, as they are high up Mount Scholarly Significance and still climbing. And the higher they are on Mount Scholarly Significance, the more funding they will receive and the better their continuity will be. Journals covering all three bases is what is traditionally happening now, both for commercial and Open Access journals. This will not likely change even when it concerns universal Open Access. After all, it is common sense to financially support journals with the higher impacts. It is a better bang for the buck, as they say.