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Are science journals starting to behave like Facebook?


Chuck Dinerstein, MD, argues the case:

Scientists have written to discuss the difficulties with peer-review, an admittedly imperfect system. But in many cases, peer-review is a necessary unremunerated side hustle for a young academic, not a due diligence vetting. Journal publication is a large, global business. Elsevier recorded $9.8 billion in revenue in the US in 2019, a profit of 34% to their parent company. You would think that if a fraction of that money, say 1%, which is about $30 million, could be redirected at paying for peer-review, we might get a better quality product. Perhaps not. But turning our attention only to peer-review assigns no culpability to the editors. That is why increasingly, even the best of our medical journals are acting more like platforms, protected by Section 230 of the Telecommunications act, than as trustworthy sources of research and clinical information.

Chuck Dinerstein, “Scientific Journals Are Now Like Facebook” at American Council on Science and Health

Facebook is protected under Section 230 in the United States, which is probably the reason why it and so many other big social media firms are happy to be domiciled there. But medical journals?

Hey, Lancet! Surgisphere

We’ll know it’s really bad when many of them start to remind us of Twitter…

Personally, I'd cut Bob O'H a little more slack, nor would I press him for what kind of journal. In my own experience, there are a wide range of editors. I've worked with many of them and nearly all were excellent and a few absolutely superior with their "developmental edits," which looks at the flow and logic of the text. They were certainly not experts in my field, but often found deficiencies that I was able to correct or improve before going to the copy edit stage. I think many journal articles would benefit greatly by having an editor help the author untangle their convoluted third-person style into something more readable. Imagine having to read a newspaper written in stilted Elizabethan English! That's not to say that an article must be wordy. It can be direct, clear and concise. And while we're at it, ditching the patronizing euphemisms for plain English would be refreshing! As for the peer review and publishing process . . . I don't think any solution will work when even a few eminent researchers are poisoned with ideologies, pet theories, professional jealousy and other human failings. I think Hermes, the Greek god of science and invention, needs to be blindfolded as well as "Lady Justice." -Q Querius
Bob O'H:
As a journal editor, I’d just like to point out that Polistra is wrong.
So you say.
We get to see a wider range of submissions than our expertise allows us to judge, and there are often subleties that we’ll miss.
One problem is Bob doesn't seem to be scientifically literate. The evidence for that is he accepts evolution by means of blind and mindless processes to be a scientific venture. So Bob isn't in any position to judge what Polistra said. So Bob doesn't fit the bill as the competent reviewer that Polistra was suggesting. ET
No, Bob, you didn't. But it's no surprise that you think that you did. ET
ET - I did (albeit briefly). But it's no surprise you didn't try to engage with it. Bob O'H
Just saying Polistra is wrong doesn't cut it. You actually have to make a case. ET
As a journal editor, I'd just like to point out that Polistra is wrong. We get to see a wider range of submissions than our expertise allows us to judge, and there are often subleties that we'll miss. Bob O'H
Even simpler, eliminate peer review and pay good EDITORS. A scientifically literate editor with a good nose for constants and variables can spot problematic articles easily. Specialized knowledge isn't needed. polistra
No, I think Facebook are acting like the journals. They have always been cathedrals for the true believers and excluded heretics. THAT is actually the primary effect of peer review, whether or not one is suspicious enough to believe that it is primary PURPOSE. ScuzzaMan

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