Independent scientific publication - Why have journals at all?

From: Alexandre Soares <Alexandre.Soares_at_STUDENT.KULEUVEN.AC.BE>
Date: Wed, 10 Feb 1999 21:40:23 +0100

Dear Dr Harnad,

I've read the original articles mentioned in your message and also your
article on peer review (Harnad,S.,1998. The invisible hand of peer
review. Nature [online] (c. 5 Nov. 1998) If you will, I
would like to add another possibility. Why not let the authors
themselves do the job of editors and publishers? For example, the author
would write her/his paper and choose 3 referees randomly from a pool of
expert referees (see 1). The referees would give their reports and the
author would make the changes which are agreed upon and the ones which
are not agreed would appear as appendix on the paper in a section called
"Referees comments" together with the author's answer. Obviously, in
this section would appear general comments related to ideas (hypothesis,
methods, applicability), not structure (grammar, etc) of the paper.
There could be also comments from the referees about the importance of
the paper, and referee questions and authors answers (along the lines of
some proceedings of symposia). The referees are therefore non-anonymous
to both authors and public (their addresses SHOULD appear in the paper
for contacts).

The author would then make the final layout of her/his paper (using any
of the almost infinite variety of available softwares) and would
"publish" the final version in her/his web site.

In this way we achieve several highly desirable qualities :

1- authors would have the copyright of their work, (as suggested by
Bachrach S. et al. (1998). Intellectual Property: Who Should Own
Scientific Papers? Science 281 (5382):1459-1460. in,

2- publication would be free of costs for both authors and readers,
rapidly "published" and easily accessible and distributed,


3- the hand of the referees would be "visible", eliminating "invisible
friends" and "enemies".

Rejected papers could be re-submitted with new randomly choosen
referees, but the reports of all referees SHOULD appear. Even in the
extreme case that the paper is rejected several times, the author
her/himself would have the final decision on "publishing" or not, as
long as she/he would always include the veridict of the referees. The
wide public would then judge whether to trust or not in the results of
the paper.


(1) This pool of referees could be organized by the appropriate
scientific society and could be available in the web in a especial
software. Referees would have numbers and each time an author would
enquire for referees, his name and the title of the article would be
registered and 3 (or more) referee names would be returned to the author
after automatic referee number randomisation and combination choice.
Referees could establish in this software their availability (for
example, no more than 4 articles per month) and this would be
considered by the software during referee choice. Each of these "pool
of referees" would somehow act as a feedback control center for how many
times an article was "submitted" and the information would be freely
accessed by any interested person.

Yours sincerely.............Alex Soares

Alexandre Goulart Soares
Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology
Section Systematics and Ecology of Animals
Zoological Institute
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Naamsestraat 59
B-3000 - Leuven - Belgium

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Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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