Beyond journals and peer review: towards a more flexible ecosystem for scholarly communication

Author : Michael Wood

This article challenges the assumption that journals and peer review are essential for developing,evaluating and disseminating scientific and other academic knowledge. It suggests a more flexible ecosystem, and examines some of the possibilities this might facilitate. The market for academic outputs should be opened up by encouraging the separation of the dissemination service from the evaluation service.

Publishing research in subject-specific journals encourages compartmentalising research into rigid categories. The dissemination of knowledge would be better served by an open access, web-based repository system encompassing all disciplines. There would then be a role for organisations to assess the items in this repository to help users find relevant, high-quality work.

There could be a variety of such organisations which could enable reviews from peers to be supplemented with evaluation by non-peers from a variety of different perspectives: user reviews, statistical reviews, reviews from the perspective of different disciplines, and so on. This should reduce the inevitably conservative influence of relying on two or three peers, and make the evaluation system more critical, multi-dimensional and responsive to the requirements of different audience groups, changing circumstances, and new ideas.

Non-peer review might make it easier to challenge dominant paradigms, and expanding the potential audience beyond a narrow group of peers might encourage the criterion of simplicity to be taken more seriously – which is essential if human knowledge is to continue to progress.

Arxiv :