Archive for May, 2008

Freely-accessible editorials about confidential peer review

The free full text is available for these editorials about the confidential nature of the peer-review process, and how it has recently been challenged:

Peer Review in the Balance, by Gregory D. Curfman, Stephen Morrissey, George J. Annas and Jeffrey M. Drazen, New England Journal of Medicine 2008(22 May); 358(21): 2276-2277. The first paragraph of this editorial:

For many years, the editors of the Journal have relied on peer review to ensure the scientific quality of the articles that we publish. Of the thousands of manuscripts submitted to the Journal each year, we publish about 1 in 20. To aid us in selecting those manuscripts, we seek advice from thousands of peer reviewers. Confidential peer review is a key component of our manuscript selection process.

Confidential review — or not? Donald Kennedy, Science 2008(22 Feb); 319(5866): 1009. The first paragraph:

At Science, We editors love our reviewers and know that our editorial colleagues elsewhere do too. After all, the process of scientific publication depends on the volunteer services of thousands of experts all over the world who willingly provide, without compensation, confidential and candid evaluations of the work of others. Because all of us in scientific publishing depend on reviewers, we’d better try to keep them at it, happy, and secure. But the following case, involving a lawsuit, a drug company, and the company’s assault on the confidential files of a journal, is a bad news story.

The outcome of this “bad news story” is discussed in the editorial in the NEJM. An excerpt:

[Judge] Sorokin’s ruling states that scholarly journals are entitled to the same protection of editorial confidentiality as journalists. The ruling also makes it clear that disclosure would be harmful not only to the Journal but also “to the medical and scientific communities, and to the public interest.”


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A comment about the IRCSET OA policy

The Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET) has released a Statement of Policy Relating to: the Open Access Repository of Published Research Papers. See: IRCSET adopts an OA mandate, Peter Suber, Open Access News, May 1, 2008.


The first “key principle” in the IRCSET policy is this one:

1. This publication policy confirms the freedom of researchers to publish first wherever they feel is the most appropriate.

However, the first of the “Conditions to which IRCSET funded Award Recipients should adhere” specifies a maximum embargo of 6 months:

1. All researchers must lodge their publications resulting in whole or in part from IRCSET-funded research in an open access repository as soon as is practical, but within six calendar months at the latest.

The first condition cannot be met for some journals, so the first principle and the first condition are clearly incompatible. Might the “should adhere” (rather than “must adhere“, in the wording of the heading “Conditions to which IRCSET funded Award Recipients should adhere“) provide the necessary loophole?

It seems to me that this incompatibility will either: 1) force researchers who support the first principle to ignore (sometimes) the first condition; or, 2) require the IRCSET to (sometimes) ignore the first principle in order to enforce compliance with the first condition; or, 3) challenge the publishers of those journals that either do not permit self-archiving, or require an embargo of longer than 6 months, to decide whether or not to attempt to enforce compliance with their current policies.

How will the IRCSET policy be implemented? Should be interesting.

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