Wednesday, August 12, 2009

AGU open review trial

The AGU has announced (EOS: sub required) that it is half-heartedly trialling an open review system. Similar to what Nature did some time ago, participation is completely voluntary on the part of the authors, it is only the volunteered reviews that will be published (the "real" reviews will be private as usual) and the authors will be under no obligation to even read, still less respond to, any comments offered. The AGU even take pains to emphasise that comments will not be considered part of the permanent record and the article itself will be removed when the final decision to publish (or not) is taken. So even assuming the comments themselves are kept up, they will be "hanging" with no context - even when the paper is published, it will generally be rather different from the one that the comments refer to.

Oh, as if that isn't enough, the web-sites where the manuscripts and comments are published will be open to AGU members only. Of course it is hard to marry the concept of open review with a paywall, which is just one more nail in the coffin of the latter.

So that will be a hit. Not. I wonder if they really think they are doing something useful, or whether they actually set out to design a "trial" that is guaranteed to fail so they can claim the status quo is just fine?

I predict they will conclude that there is little support for such a system, just like Nature did. I further predict the continuing expansion of the EGU publication empire where an open review system is carried out properly (if not perfectly IMO)! "Popular" or not, I think many scientists can see that such a system enhances the credibility of the peer review process. CP and ACP are very young but already two of the leading journals in their respective fields.

The list of journals included in this trial doesn't include much of interest to me: Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems; Global Biogeochemical Cycles; JGR–Earth Surface; JGR–Planets; and Radio Science.


C W Magee said...

EGU publications appear to be 'geoscience without the geology'.

James Annan said...

Doesn't eEarth count? Actually, I believe that journal may be on course for a revamping shortly. The EGU family of journals is very much a work in progress - I have noted before that there is also a significant gap for (future) climate change research!

EliRabett said...

Given that the annual AGU dues as $20 and for that you get EOS and Physics Today, Eli doubts the paywall is a serious issue

James Annan said...

Yeah, I guess you are probably right about that - although it will keep out the casual punters, some may think that's a good thing :-)

I do like that comments can be anonymous, as the need to give a name will surely have discouraged people in other systems (no-one needs to make enemies).