some journals have been experimenting with making reviews open and public.16 In some cases, reviewers’ names are known to authors and readers. In other cases, their reviews and authors’ responses become part of the online record of publication. More radical innovations, such as the continuous improvement of published materials through wikis and similar approaches, or peer rankings and commentary on published papers, could further change both journals and the institution of peer review.

Although it is clear that traditional peer review processes remain vital for evaluating the importance and relevance of research, the advance of digital technologies is providing new opportunities to ensure the integrity of data. The emergence and growth of accessible databases such as GenBank and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey illustrate these opportunities in widely disparate disciplines.17

Many researchers post databases, draft papers, oral presentations, simulations, software packages, or other scholarly products on personal or institutional Web sites. Repositories, such as the Nature Precedings repository established by the Nature publishing group for the life sciences, allow researchers to share, discuss, and cite preliminary findings.18 The Web allows widespread dissemination of critiques, commentaries, blogs, and other communications. All of these communications can be widely disseminated without undergoing a formal peer review process. In these cases, the quality of research results and the underlying data may be uncertain, and other researchers may have questions in deciding whether to rely on that research in their own work.

The processes for reviewing data that are preserved in a repository or otherwise made widely available to researchers can be quite different from the procedures for reviewing data presented in a publication.19 Trust in the quality of data may require personal knowledge of how the data were collected and analyzed. Metadata that carefully describe the origins and subsequent processing of the data can increase confidence in the validity of the data.

In some cases, digital technologies can assist in ensuring data quality and building trust in the integrity of the data. Verified technical methods for gather-

16

A number of open access journals maintain open peer review processes. The traditional journal Nature experimented with an open peer review process during 2006, finding that the open process was not popular with authors or reviewers. Sarah Greaves, Joanna Scott, Maxine Clarke, Linda Miller, Timo Hannay, Annette Thomas, and Philip Campbell. 2006. “Overview: Nature’s peer review trial.” Nature doi:10.1038/nature05535. Available http://www.nature.com/nature/peerreview/debate/nature05535.html. This report is also discussed in an editorial. 2006. “Peer review and fraud.” 444:971.

17

Dennis A. Benson, Ilene Karsch-Mizrachi, David J. Lipman, James Ostell, and David L. Wheeler. 2006. “GenBank.” Nucleic Acids Research 34(Database):D16–D20. Available at http://nar.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/34/suppl_1/D16. See also Robert C. Kennicutt, Jr. 2007. “Sloan at five.” Nature 450:488–489.

18

See http://precedings.nature.com/.

19

Christine L. Borgman. 2007. Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement