Parliament and peer review

Added by Stephane Goldstein on 31 January 2011 19:23

The House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee has just announced the launch of an inquiry into peer review, and is inviting evidence on “the operation and effectiveness of the peer review process used to examine and validate scientific results and papers prior to publication”.

It appears this will be a wide-ranging inquiry, and submissions are being invited on all aspects of the peer review process, including perceived strengths and weakness, and possible alternatives. One of the issues on the Committee’s list is the impact of the greater use of online resources on the process. This presumably offers an opportunity to look at developments such as the impact on peer review of new and more open forms of communication between researchers, and also open access.

Curiously, the Committee’s web page does not explicitly mention open access as a factor in the debate. That does not mean that it should not be raised. Indeed, last time that the Committee substantially considered peer review, back in 2004, was in the context of its (in)famous report on Scientific Publications: Free for All? - which, controversially at the time, turned open access into a politically heated issue in the UK. It is instructive to look at what that report had to say about peer review; see in particular paragraphs 204-207, which concluded that “peer review is not an infallible system […] nonetheless we are satisfied that publishers are taking reasonable measures to main high standards of peer review”; paragraphs 132-135, which looked at peer review in relation to institutional repositories; and paragraphs 169-174, on peer review in an author-pays model.

So let’s wait and see how Parliament views developments over the past seven years. In the meantime, written submissions can be made until 10 March.

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