Dear HUM-MOLGEN subscriber:
Below please find the first results of questions 9/10 of the
HUM-MOLGEN survey 1997/1998 directly concerning the LITE section.
I would like to thank those who took the time of completing the
survey, which gives us the opportunity to improve our service.
The results of the survey are such that it is extremely useful to ask
your comments about the most favoured form of moderation of submitted
manuscripts (A4 letters or comprehense reviews only) to HUM-MOLGEN
in an inviting editorial (below; "Moderated pre-printservices, open
HUM-MOLGEN documents can be viewed at:
The HUM-MOLGEN survey was made possible by the dutch Institute for
innovative scientific information exchange IWI.
Results to questions:
9. Pre-print publishing provides researchers with the chance to
immediately publish interesting research results (including "negative"
results), abstracts, observations or theories. Once the writer signs a
copyright agreement with a traditional publisher and lets the
electronic publisher know, the electronic version is immediately
removed. Do you think pre-print publishing would be a useful addition
A. Yes 30.0%
B. Yes, but only if it is moderated 50.0%
C. No 7.0%
D. Don't know or no opinion 13.0%
10. If HUM-MOLGEN offered pre-print publishing on its www site, with
brief announcements on the listserv, would you be likely to publish
A. Yes 43.0%
B. No 47.0%
C. Undecided 10.0%
Inviting editorial (please reply only according to the rules stated
MODERATED PREPRINTSERVICES, OPEN PEER REVIEW
With 80 % in favour, the HUM-MOLGEN survey clearly indicates an
overwhelming support for "(moderated) preprint services". But what
does this actually mean? Do "moderated preprint-services" more or
less equal fast "traditional peer review publishing"? Should
moderation only be limited to low-level editing, combined with a
large degree of openness when it comes to scientific communication
exchange, as is already common on moderated electronic listserv
communication? Do these results indicate a further need for rapid
communication between scientists, or does it indicate an increasing
need for a more open peer review system, in which f.i.
referee-reports are signed by the reviewer, and additional public
comments can be given directly on the WWW?
These questions become more and more important in a time-frame in
which traditional publishers increasingly succeed in copying their
physical scientific publishing systems into an exactly matching
electronic WWW world. Is it true that scientists and clinicians, who
feed, run and pay for the majority of the (electronic) scientific
publication system, are once again on the side-track?
It is often argued that the quality of the biomedical research
literature basically depends on the (1) the quality and integrity of
(the work of) the scientists or clinicians who submit articles, and
(2) the quality and integrity of a (peer review) system which focuses
on quality control of the scientific content of the submitted
In an editorial of Nature Medicine, November 1996, it was
stated that, "in an ideal world, the idea of anonymous peer review
would be an oxymoron, since tradition teaches that scientists are
paragons of not only virtue but objectivity, ready at the drop of an
editorial request to review a colleague's work with a view to making
the science the best it can be."
However, few will argue that the"ideal world of today" is completely
different form the "traditional ideal world", in which the
traditional peer review system was established. Today, increased
publication pressure, decreased publication time, increased
competition for grants, decreasing academic freedom, temporary work
assignments and possibilities to earn even some good money with
science (!) potentially erode personal responsibilities and
scientific integrity, which is fundamental for the traditional peer
review system. While the traditional peer review system still appears
to work well in an undefined (large) number of cases, is there any
one scientist out there who does not know about, or experienced one
or more misuses of the traditional peer review system?
Following the discussions about this subject in a number of journals
over the last few years, I have the impression that a very large
number of scientists indeed want to preserve some form of
moderation when it comes to publishing their results, but more and
more insist on more personal responsibility, integrity and
some form "open peer review".
Is this true? If this would be true, why do we observe so little
change in the traditional peer review system? Is it a conservative
attitude or existing interests of publishers, editors or the
editorial boards? Is it potential fear of reviewers, who may be
reluctant to be candid, because of potential damage to their careers?
A common argument used against a more open peer review system is that
it might invoke conflicts among reviewers and scientists, upon
rejection of manuscripts. However, if the reviewers comments are
based on sound scientific reasoning, data and arguments (the latter
should be judged by the (independent) editor, or, in case of a more
open peer review system, basically the scientific audience) there
seems to be no a priori reason for potential conflicts whatsoever.
Would it be possible that in a more open peer review system, the
initial scientific quality of the submitted document further
increases due to direct public exposure? Would the same not be true
for the reviewers comments? Would the latter not lessen the
reviewers/editorial burden on scientists? In an electronic age, would
it not be possible for authors to alter their initially publicly
submitted manuscripts according public reviewers comments, as long as
the status of the manuscript is entirely clear?
Or, do we stick with the traditional peer review system?
Please advice (HUM-MOLGEN@nic.surfnet.nl), your answers will be used
to improve the LITE section of HUM-MOLGEN. A summary or selection of
your answers will be published in the documents section of HUM-MOLGEN
WWW and/or may (of course, in case of a selection, with your personal
involvement or permission only) be submitted to a Journal in Human
and Molecular genetics.
RULES for REPLIES (we can and will not accept other forms):
(1) State your full name, title and affiliations.
(2) Replies should be no longer than 750 words.
(3) The SUBJECT heading of your E-mail reply should at least start
with: LITE: REPLY
(4) E-mail your letter preferentially as an attachment in Word 6.0 or
(5) Send your replies to HUM-MOLGEN@nic.surfnet.nl
(6) No more replies will be accepted after May 12th 1998.
(7) Do NOT use the REPLY FUNCTION of your mail program
Thank you in advance for your effort and collaboration