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Re: PLOS article metrics

It's always difficult to predict the future, and I agree with Joe
that nothing here is "self-evident." Still, I foresee it's being much
easier to substitute post-publication review for journals articles
than for monographs, not least because the investment of time is much
greater for carefully assessing the latter than the former, generally
speaking. I do fear that because so few people really understand how
university presses conduct peer review of monographs, and how
different and more complex a process this is than any reviewing of
journal articles is, that  the "value added" of the former may be
sacrificed too readily because people assume it is the same as what
goes on in journal peer review.

Sandy Thatcher
Penn State Press

The operative word in Phil's comment is "still."  It's an important
indicator of looking at a situation that is in transition and focusing on
that part of it that has not changed, while around it are areas that are
changing.  The question is which way the arrow is pointing.

We "still" buy audio CDs in bricks-and-mortar retail stores (some of us
anyway), and we "still" have landlines at home (some of us), even though
mobile phones are approaching ubiquity in the developed world and improve in
quality all the time.  But no one believes that the neighborhood record
store will be with us forever, or that telephony is not going wholly mobile.
For some of these changes to be comprehensive, it is likely that some people
will have to grow old and die.  But people still do that, too.

So people "still" want high-quality editorial work. Yes, that's true, but
examples of accepting the good-enough abound.  I recall when Internet search
engines first appeared, the editor of Encyclopaedia Britannica sniffed to me
that some of the "hits" turned up through computer search were not relevant.
Of course libraries do search better, and we still use those tools, but
mostly we use Google.

I believe the open access movement has initiated a process that will
ultimately lead to the diminishment of prepublication peer review.  This may
take a long time to come about; we still like prepublication review; and the
OA movement is only nibbling at scholarly communications today.  While it is
likely that this will begin at the low end of the quality spectrum, there
will be exceptions; no one, to my knowledge, would call PLOS "low end," for
example.  Over time the tools for post-publication review will improve, and
publications of greater merit will fall into their orbit.

I would add that it is not clear to me that prepublication peer review would
do a better job than post-publication review.  There may be some issues with
that during a period of transition, but I don't think it is self-evident
that this switch will make things either better or worse.

Joe Esposito

On 10/1/09 11:51 AM, "Philip Davis" <pmd8@cornell.edu> wrote:

 A very thought-provoking post.  But you aren't suggesting that this is
 the beginning of the demise of editorial peer review, just the beginning
 of the demise for the process at the low end of the quality spectrum.
 People will still want (and be willing to pay for) quality editorial and
 peer-review at the upper end of the quality spectrum.  Is this what
 > you're saying?
 > --phil
 >> This is the real long-term threat PLOS faces: the possibility
 >> that the innovation it helped to spawn continues to develop until
 PLOS itself is marginalized by its high cost structure.  PLOS,
 having chipped away at the principal and practice of peer review,
 is on its way to learn that unmediated computer processes are
 mere bits, and bits are free.

 Joe Esposito