The role of Post-Publication Peer Review

Post-Publication Peer Review

One of the new models of peer review is evolving. It entails critiquing scientific work after it is published. Post-Publication Peer Review is an opportunity to boost the quality of published science. Online publication of scientific journals allows scientists to share their views on published papers usually in the form of comments/reviews and have online discussions. Since there exist different platforms for commenting on published papers, sometimes it gets difficult to gather all the reviews for a specific article in one place.

As a step towards a centralized commenting system and with growing request from its readers, PubMed initiated the forum PubMed Commons.

PubMed Commons enables researchers to post comments on any published paper indexed by PubMed. Registered users can add comments which can be publicly viewed.  The site mentions “PubMed Commons is a forum for open and constructive criticism and discussion of scientific issues. It will thrive with high-quality interchange from the scientific community.” Another such initiative involving comments on published papers is PubPeer.

The peer review process has many issues. You hear times and again from researchers that they had difficulty publishing a quality study after several journal submissions. Poor quality studies are being published and getting through as well which is another concern.  The main reason for this is a lack of objective reviewers within a specialized field. There was the open-access journal explosion, promising an open, peer review process that would revolutionize the scientific publishing world. Unfortunately, the system has turned out to be rife with money-hungry companies (i.e., extortionate journal submission fees) with very poor editorship and peer-review systems. The quality of research paper was actually lowered due to these problems. That is why many believe that post-publication peer-review system and injecting it with a dose of social media such as PubMed Commons restore order and faith to the system. The answer is not certain. Social Media has its own challenges as we all know so perhaps with social media, it will be tougher for the next generation of scientists to be anonymous and subjective.

The current peer review process selects scientists from closely related fields, whose views and motivations may conflict with those of the authors. Hence observance of scientific interpretations, and even experimental data, to acknowledged science is dominant under review by selected peers, and can often form the criteria for publication. Thus, as a new scientific process, replacement of pre-publication peer review with a widely used post-publication review platform will likely improve the quality and quantity of scientific scrutiny and will speed up the dissemination of novel scientific discoveries. The collective science effort will benefit with this strategy, and the debate on PubMed Commons will be strengthened with a multitude of opinions.

If anonymity is not granted, a lot of junior scientists will be hesitant to comment critically on the work of more senior and experienced researchers. Indeed, the need for anonymity goes to the core of competitive funding systems, which like the current peer review process, rely on the authority of select opinion leaders, who may feel the need to protect their interests and undermine scientists with controversial views. Thus, to avoid biases of opinion leaders, equivalent reforms to funding systems may be needed in addition to post-publication peer review.

The peer review was created to ensure that the research papers are rich in data and are confirmed with the general standard of the scientific community. But sparking up scientific discussion has always been another objective of peer review. However, rarely does this discussion involve more than few reviewers at the pre-publication stage. Post-Publication Peer Review permits the wider community to further examine the article, presenting the open forum that peer review ideally aims for. There are obviously going to be a conflict of interests in using this approach. Discussion of a mainstream theory against a competing mainstream theory is often not permitted through peer review, theoretical scientists often are not given the chance to review and discuss empirical data, and vice versa. Therefore, open discussions around scientific topics in an effective way will eventually lead to scientific developments and advances.

Source: Enago




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