Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A New form of academic review

Sometimes I work as a reviewer of academic manuscript.

In academic field, peer review system is established to maintain the quality of newly reports of research. When some scholars or research groups completed a new work, they write a manuscript about their findings and submit it to an academic journal. Then editors of this journal would read it and investigate the contents. If they thought it is impressive, the manuscript is sent to some peer reviewers who are familiar to the region the manuscript refers to. Reviewers check it up carefully without knowing about the authors of this manuscript, and send back their opinion to the editors. After all, the editors decide whether the manuscript is accepted for publishing or rejected.

Peer review system is widely adopted in many journals regardless of the region of study. Non peer reviewed article is not assessed as valuable in general. The acceptance rate of world famous journal such as Nature, Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine, is less than 20%. So for a scholar, it is more honorable that his research is accepted by an authorized journal than introduced by newspaper or TV.

(Website of Nature)

However, peer review system has a serious disadvantage. It costs much time. Usually a reviewer needs at least 1 month to review a manuscript and make a comment. And you know that a deadline is very often broke. It is not rare that over 1 year or more time passes from beginning of submit to publishing of the final article.

Nowadays this slowness may be critical.
In region of study, new things are valuable, and old things are worthless even if it is interesting.

Besides, it is one more problem about it.
Recently region of study is divided into thousands of categories. For example, I am a psychiatrist. I have Japanese Doctor License. But I cannot perform a surgery of course. And my specialty is forensic mental health and I am not so familiar to pediatric psychiatry or geriatric psychiatry. I hardly understand about brain images or human gene.
Now, most scholars have little knowledge about their neighboring regions. Especially in niche category, it is very difficult to detect a researcher who can evaluate another one’s research precisely.

I think that making good use of collective intelligence will be a solution of this matter. Some attempts have been started. “ResearchGate” is a Social Network Service constructed of scholars. We can discuss various problems about specific research and review articles each other closely in the SNS.

(Top page of ResearchGate)

Recently I participated in a project for revision of a medical textbook. The reviewers of it were gathered with Twitter information. We had argument about the contents with mailing list without clarifying our own personal information. It is also exciting and I had a fun.

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