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The Reader's Rank

Posted by PLOSBiology on 07 May 2009 at 22:11 GMT

Author: Alon Korngreen
Position: Lecturer in Neuroscience
Institution: Faculty of Life Sciences Bar-Ilan University ISRAEL
Submitted Date: November 05, 2005
Published Date: November 7, 2005
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

It was with great interest that I read the suggestion by Mainguy et al to change the reviewing system in biological sciences from single blind to double blind. While this may improve peer review it is my opinion that the discussion should be directed elsewhere. The recent decade has seen major improvements to the peer review process. The use of the World Wide Web and online submission systems greatly reduced the time required to review a manuscript. Authors can submit manuscripts from their personal computers and expect rapid replies by e-mail. Editors and reviewers are armed with many on-line tools assisting them in the evaluation and decision process. It is probable that online submission and review systems will become more sophisticated and include many more options in the near future. Instead of passively adapting to these changes the scientific community should generate novel strategies utilizing the power of the WWW to filter good publications from bad ones.

One of recent addition to the publication process is the ability of the reader to add online commentaries to the manuscript. This policy is widely employed in other web pages where hundreds of commentaries are often attached to an article in a daily newspaper. While it is clear that editorial filtering is required in order to keep the level of conversation it is possible to expand this basic mechanism to help the scientific community. I would like to suggest that each reader will also be requested to numerically rank the manuscript he is commenting on. The more scientists reading and commenting on a specific manuscript the more accurate will be the numerical Reader's Rank of that manuscript. With time, excellent manuscripts will float to the top of the list while bad ones will sink to the bottom. We can imagine that, once many journals will adopt the Reader's Rank, we will be able to sort search results in PubMed or Google according to this criterion allowing investigators to immediately receive the citations of the best papers in their field of study.

In the recent century we have witnessed a vast inflation in the number of scientific publications in the biological sciences. None of us is able anymore to read all the papers that are relevant to his or hers respective fields of research. We urgently need a new tool to single out those excellent manuscripts from the huge mass of mediocre and bad papers. The Reader's Rank I proposed here is just one such possible filter and definitely not the best one. What is clear to me is that the scientific community must define modern quality filters in addition to the standard peer review or else we will soon not be able to cope with the vast amounts of information heading our way.

Competing interests declared: I declare that I have no competeing interests