Re: [asa] Trees don't lie

From: Randy Isaac <randyisaac@comcast.net>
Date: Sun Mar 22 2009 - 20:54:51 EDT

Well said, George. It's also useful to consider how papers were reviewed a
century ago.At that time, as far as I can tell, the business of science was
even more concentrated in the hands of the few elite. They controlled much
more closely who got to publish what. As science became a much broader
vocation with many more people entering into the field and contributing,
peer review, rather than superior review, became a more efficient,
effective, and practical means of screening submissions.

In the future, it may well be that the internet will enable an even more
efficient review process. It would not be an open free-for-all but perhaps
one more closely modeled after the open-source software model. When Linus
Torvalds first used the open-source approach to developing the Linux
operating system, many of us, if not most of us, in the field were rather
skeptical of the business model. It has turned out to be quite effective but
it does need guidance with a small knowledgeable team of experts. Similarly,
I expect a peer-review process opened up via the internet with an
appropriate level of control to be used effectively in the future. Some
models are already being tried.

Randy

George wrote:

> I've been involved in peer review both as a reviewer & reviewee, & in both
> physics & theology. You can certainly encounter reviewers who either
> haven't read the paper carefully or, in a few cases, who aren't
> sufficiently familiar with the area of the paper to be reviewing it in the
> 1st place. (The latter situation may arise when someone agrees to be a ref
> without fully understanding what the topic is going to be & should, when
> he/she finds out, return the paper to the editor apologetically.)
> Unfortunately refs who are really experts are likely to be very busy
> people who will give the paper only a quick read & perhaps miss
> subtleties. That can work both ways - either for rejection or for
> approval of something that looks superficially OK but isn't.
>
> That much for the negatives. I would have to say from my experience
> though that on balance the review process is beneficial for authors. It
> forces them to clarify arguments and correct errors that are not fatal to
> their argument but that would weaken the overall thrust of the paper. &
> in some cases refs can call the authors attention to other papers that
> they weren't aware of that are relevant to the topic in question.

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Received on Sun Mar 22 20:55:01 2009

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