A proposal for the future of scientific publishing in the life sciences

by Bodo M. Stern, Erin K. O’Shea

Science advances through rich, scholarly discussion. More than ever before, digital tools allow us to take that dialogue online. To chart a new future for open publishing, we must consider alternatives to the core features of the legacy print publishing system, such as an access paywall and editorial selection before publication. Although journals have their strengths, the traditional approach of selecting articles before publication (“curate first, publish second”) forces a focus on “getting into the right journals,” which can delay dissemination of scientific work, create opportunity costs for pushing science forward, and promote undesirable behaviors among scientists and the institutions that evaluate them. We believe that a “publish first, curate second” approach with the following features would be a strong alternative: authors decide when and what to publish; peer review reports are published, either anonymously or with attribution; and curation occurs after publication, incorporating community feedback and expert judgment to select articles for target audiences and to evaluate whether scientific work has stood the test of time. These proposed changes could optimize publishing practices for the digital age, emphasizing transparency, peer-mediated improvement, and post-publication appraisal of scientific articles.

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