The rise of online journals that publish all scientifically sound articles submitted could stem the “dramatic” rise in the amount of time authors are obliged to spend defending their papers from criticism by referees, a parliamentary inquiry has heard.
Ronald Laskey, vice-president of the Academy of Medical Sciences and professor emeritus of animal embryology at the University of Cambridge, told the first hearing of the Commons Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into peer review that the “engine of peer review has not seized but is misfiring”.
This was because many of the extra experiments being demanded by referees did not relate to the key themes of papers or add substantially to their value.
Speaking to Times Higher Education after the hearing last week, Professor Laskey said part of the reason for the dramatic rise in referees’ demands over the past decade was the facility offered by electronic publishing for supplementary material to be added.
“You can no longer turn round to an editor and say: ‘I can’t get any more in because I’ve reached your page limit’,” he explained. “There is always something more an intelligent reviewer can ask for and that is where it starts to become very counter-productive for science.”
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