Re: Peer Review Reform Hypothesis-Testing

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 1 Apr 2004 22:51:00 +0100 (BST)

On Thu, 1 Apr 2004, Ulrich Poeschl wrote:

> following up on our discussions at the Open Access Conference in Berlin
> 2003 please find attached a recent article summarizing the motivation,
> concept, and achievements of scientific quality assurance by interactive
> peer-review and public discussion in an open access environment.

The article and the peer-review project and proposal are very interesting
and well worth pursuing. But I think it would be a great strategic
mistake to link Open Access with such experiments in Peer Review reform
in any way.

Open Access (OA) has been (and still is) far slower in coming than it need
be or need have been, even though it is optimal and inevitable. There
are at least 31 reasons why it has taken so long
and worries about peer review have been several of those reasons!

Open Access to the current peer-reviewed journal literature,
*such as it is* -- all 24,000 journals and 2.5 million articles
published yearly there in -- is the objective of the OA movement.
That OA is possible, feasible, desirable, beneficial, optimal, and
inevitable and already long overdue is not in doubt on the part of
any researcher who has given it any serious thought.

That peer review needs to be, and can be, improved is probably
also true, but it certainly is not such a universal proposition,
and it is not at all clear that all or most researchers would
agree, even upon reflection. It is an empirical question: Alternatives
need to be tested, and if and when an alternative is found that is
actually better by some measure, and if that alternative will scale up,
then it should be implemented.

But that has nothing to do with OA. Nor should OA be linked with such
experiments (i.e., "if you opt for OA, you opt for a change in peer
review, rather than just for a change in access to the peer-reviewed
literature, such as it is"), for that will only serve to further delay
OA, which is not contingent on any future experimental outcome,
and has already been repeatedly demonstrated to be both feasible and

Please, let us keep these two independent projects -- Open Access and
Peer-Review Reform -- separate, so one is not held back by the fate of
the other.

Stevan Harnad

    The Invisible Hand of Peer Review.

    Peer Review Reform Hypothesis-Testing

    A Note of Caution About "Reforming the System"

    Self-Selected Vetting vs. Peer Review: Supplement or Substitute?

    "I worry about self-archiving because on-line eprints are not
    refereed, as they are on-paper: What will become of peer review?"
Received on Thu Apr 01 2004 - 22:51:00 BST

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