Redefining publishing

Peer Review Week 2016, Article #3

Redefining publishing

Due to the advance of digital technologies and the increasing impact of the open access movement, scholarly publishing is being redefined. As new tools, platforms and services diversify the academic publishing scene, the nature and the stages of the publishing process are continuously revisited and reevaluated in scholarly discourse.

Problems seem to begin with the word `publishing.` By the common practice of using preprint servers or repositories to disseminate research result within given scientific communities, the term publish moves away from the traditional concept of publishing research articles in print journals, and implies more the act of sharing results publicly.

“Some scientists are going a step further, and using platforms such as GitHub, Zenodo and figshare to publish each hypothesis, data collection or figure as they go along. Each file can be given a DOI, so that it is citable and trackable. Himmelstein, who already publishes his papers as preprints, has been using the Thinklab platform to progressively write up and publish the results of a new project since January 2015. “I push ‘publish’ and it gets a DOI with no delay,” he says. “Am I really gaining that much by publishing [in a conventional journal]? Or is it better to do what is fastest and most efficient to get your research out there?” (Powell)

Considering the traditionally embedded meaning of the notion by the academic publishing system, a certain cautiousness is connected to its use. As Christophe Dessimoz explains it:“I am saying “made available” instead of “published” because although preprints can be read by anybody, the general view is that the canonical publication event lies with the journal, post peer-review. Because of this, many traditional journals tolerate this practice: peer-review technically remains “pre-publication” and the journals get to keep their gatekeeping function. The key benefit of preprints is that they accelerate scientific communication. Indeed, peer-review can be long and frustrating for authors. Reviewers sometimes misjudge the importance of papers or request unreasonable amounts of additional work. The ability to bypass peer-review can thus be liberating for authors. Thus, if we instead recognized preprints as the canonical publication event, so goes the idea, peer-review would be relegated to a secondary role and journals would loose their gatekeeping function. This is the “post-publication” peer-review model.

A similar problematic issue is discussed by Tony Ross-Hellauer in his recent OpenAIRE blogpost on post-publication peer review. He suggests using better words for the publishing process in light of the expanding array of scholarly dissemination and review tools. See more: Tony Ross-Hellauer. 2016. Disambiguating post-publication peer review. OpenAIRE blog.



Dessimoz, C. 2016. Thoughts on pre- vs. post-publication peer-review. Dessimoz Lab blog posts. Accessed on Sept 16, 2016

Powell, K. 2016. Does it take too long to publish research? Nature 530: 7589. 

Ross-Hellauer, T. 2016. Disambiguating post-publication peer review. OpenAIRE blog. Accessed on Sept. 14, 2016

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