This summer news broke about a scientific journal (Journal of Vibration and Control, SAGE) withdrawing 60 articles connected to a researcher. The journal accused the researcher of creating fake identities to come around peer review. The researchers had created a “peer review and citation ring” according to the publisher. This ring included real and fake researchers and at least on one occation the accused researcher peer reviewed his own article. The articles which SAGE has now withdrawn had at least one researcher involved in the ring. This does not seem to be the first time a researcher creates a persona to be able to peer review his own articles. The blog Retraction Watch broke the news first.
This newest case has again opened up discussions on peer review and scientific communication. Should it be pre-publication or post-publication, should the reviewers names be public, should their comments be available for those reading the article, should the review be blind or double blind etc.
There are pros and cons to everything. Possibiblities to comment subjects which always cause debate such as evolution, vaccinations, climate changes would perhaps attract abuse and receive comments from non-experts. This could be worked around by e.g. letting the comments be external to the publisher’s site, not allowing anonymous commenting, even limiting who would be allowed to comment so that only experts in the area had a possibility to leave a comment.
Perhaps these tools which allow previously private conversations about publications be made public, will become more successfull and perhaps making conversations available to all will not feel strange for the new generation of researchers who have grown up with sharing their comments on Facebook, their favorite videos on Youtube, song they listen to on Spotify or last.fm. Will it lead to others like Scopus, Web of Science changing their ways to work and start including convesations between researchers and their readers and colleagues?