The science world is undergoing rapid changes, and so does the field of scientific publishing. The Lancet recently featured five articles on the current value and reduction of waste in biomedical research. An article in the Economist from a few months before titled 'How science goes wrong' is another eye-opener. Clearly, much is changing in the science world, and this includes us scientists working on malaria.
Here we are asking for your views regarding an issue we are discussing for the MalariaWorld Journal, entering its 5th volume this year: Should we continue with peer review, yes or no, or should we perhaps make it optional?
The role of peer- review is obvious. Experts not directly engaged with the research you are intending to publish check the merits of the manuscript, the way data were generated, analysed, and interpreted. At least, that's how it is supposed to be. And how it used to work just fine. But today, with the number of publications skyrocketing, experts become over-stretched and can no longer spend many hours a week reviewing other people's work. The result is that finding reviewers has become a nightmare for editors, or, alternatively, you receive 'quick and dirty' reviews that don't really improve the value of the manuscript.
At the MalariaWorld Journal we witness this process first hand. It sometimes takes weeks to find suitable reviewers. They then need three reminders before they do it, sometimes taking months to receive feedback, which sometimes is of disappointing quality.
So what to do?
There are already quite a few journals out there that do no longer offer peer review but rather let the scientific community gauge the value of the work. Mind you, there is still editorial support to make sure that manuscripts are complete, use good language, have all the references, etc. But they are no longer sent to reviewers. Instead, once posted online, the scientific community can list comments with articles to express their views and opinions. We wonder, would this be a good model for the MalariaWorld Journal?
What is missing in this reasoning is that sometimes peer review results in a dramatic improvement of the quality of the end product, which could be lost if peer review no longer takes place...
Taking this into account, we could offer both options:
1) You submit your manuscript to us and request for peer review. This is the traditional route that may give you important feedback to improve the manuscript before publication. It may of course be rejected - that's your gamble. And for sure, you will have to be patient, as the review process may take months.
2) You submit your manuscript to us and indicate that you wish to proceed with publication without peer review. We will indicate this on the paper once it is published. If you are convinced that your manuscript is of high quality, and you are happy to proceed with internal editiorial review by us only, the we proceed to the copy-editing stage fast and your work will appear online much quicker (weeks).
Before we make a decision, we would very much appreciate your views...thank you for posting comments below this blog.