Post-publication peer review (PPPR) is something that we all would like to flourish, yet at the same time seem to struggle to find a proper format for. Arguably the most accessible and widely accepted form of PPPR is writing comments in the form of letters, or directly on a publisher’s website. However, Kent Anderson has recently discussed the problems associated with comments being used for PPPR, the main issue being a lack of substance and quality in such ´reviews´.
In search of new forms of PPPR, a new movement called ´altmetrics´ has established itself recently as a potential front-runner, basically switching the focus from traditional full-text reviews to widespread usage-based metrics, ranging from the more traditional citation counts, to more recent inventions, such as tweets, Facebook likes, etc. Unfortunately though, these metrics suffer from several drawbacks themselves, as discussed by David Crotty in one of his recent posts. Not surprisingly, the main issue identified was that these metrics are extremely hard to interpret, especially since one needn’t be an expert in the field (or even know what an article is about) to retweet its link to others for example.
The big question that remains then is: Does a form of PPPR exist that can provide a sufficient amount of substance, not be too demanding for the reviewer and in fact provide an incentive for the reviewer in itself? To answer this question, I suggest that we stop looking at public metrics for just a second, and focus on the reviewer. This person will in most cases will be a (semi-) professional scientist, meaning that the person will be spending a lot of time reading and evaluating the work of others, looking for gaps that could be addressed in future research.
In effect, every researcher spends half the time writing personal comments and reviews on published books and articles, which may partially end up in the “Introduction”, “State of the art” and “Literature review” sections of the researcher’s articles, books, dissertations, etc. There is already an abundance of quality PPPR out there, our task is to encourage researchers to make (some of) this material public, by providing the right tools and formats.
How can we do this? The short answer is: by providing even more value to the researcher. I’m still mulling over the details somewhat, so I’ll put off the full proposal for a follow up post which should appear later this week. I’d be happy to hear what your thoughts are so far, though I guess the solution is the most interesting aspect to all this.