from the scientific-skirmishes dept.
Earlier this month, when the biotech firm Human Longevity published a controversial paper claiming that it could predict what a person looks like based on only a teeny bit of DNA, it was just a little over a week before a second paper was published discrediting it as flawed and false. The lightening[sic] speed with which the rebuttal was delivered was thanks to bioRxiv, a server where scientists can publish pre-prints of papers before they have gone through the lengthy peer-review process. It took only four more days before a rebuttal to the rebuttal was up on bioRxiv, too.
This tit-for-tat biological warfare was only the latest in a series of scientific kerfuffles that have played out on pre-print servers like bioRxiv. In a piece that examines the boom of biology pre-prints, Science questions their impact on the field. In a time when a scandal can unfold and resolve in a single day's news cycle, pre-prints can lead to science feuds that go viral, unfolding without the oversight of peer-review at a rapid speed.
"Such online squabbles could leave the public bewildered and erode trust in scientists," Science argued. Many within the scientific community agree.
[Source Article (PDF)]: THE PREPRINT DILEMMA
What do you think ??
Attendees of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute meeting debated whether or not science journals should publish the text of peer reviews, or even require peer reviewers to publicly sign their paper critiques:
Scientific journals should start routinely publishing the text of peer reviews for each paper they accept, said attendees at a meeting last week of scientists, academic publishers, and funding organizations. But there was little consensus on whether reviewers should have to publicly sign their critiques, which traditionally are accessible only to editors and authors.
The meeting—hosted by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) here, and sponsored by HHMI; ASAPbio, a group that promotes the use of life sciences preprints; and the London-based Wellcome Trust—drew more than 100 participants interested in catalyzing efforts to improve the vetting of manuscripts and exploring ways to open up what many called an excessively opaque and slow system of peer review. The crowd heard presentations and held small group discussions on an array of issues. One hot topic: whether journals should publish the analyses of submitted papers written by peer reviewers.
Publishing the reviews would advance training and understanding about how the peer-review system works, many speakers argued. Some noted that the evaluations sometimes contain insights that can prompt scientists to think about their field in new ways. And the reviews can serve as models for early career researchers, demonstrating how to write thorough evaluations. "We saw huge benefits to [publishing reviews] that outweigh the risks," said Sue Biggins, a genetics researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, summarizing one discussion.
But attendees also highlighted potential problems. For example, someone could cherry pick critical comments on clinical research studies that are involved in litigation or public controversy, potentially skewing perceptions of the studies. A possible solution? Scientists should work to "make the public understand that [peer review] is a fault-finding process and that criticism is part of and expected in that process," said Veronique Kiermer, executive editor of the PLOS suite of journals, based in San Francisco, California.
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