Saturday, January 27, 2007

Is this the end of the scholarly journal? -- Christian Science Monitor

An interview based on article in the Scientist.

Is this the end of the scholarly journal?
Publishing research to blogs and e-books is so easy, some are wondering if peer-reviewed journals are on their way to obsolescence.
By Gregory M. Lamb | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Scientific advances sometimes come as lightning flashes of inspiration. But when scientists sit down to record and take credit for what they've found, they still use much the same method they have for decades – an article published in a scholarly journal.
But science's hidebound traditions are changing. The Internet has opened up new forms of publishing in which anyone in the world can find and read a scientific paper. And papers themselves are becoming more interactive, leading readers to the underlying data, videos, and discussions that augment their value. With blogs and e-books providing easy means of self-publishing, some observers are speculating that scholarly journals and their controversial system of peer reviews may not be needed at all.
"The traditional journal publishing medium we've grown used to really needs to evolve and change because that's not the way people are accessing information," says Mark Gerstein, a professor of biomedical informatics at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. Dr. Gerstein cowrote an article, "The Death of the Scientific Paper," which appeared last year on, an online science magazine....
Already, an online database called arXiv (, hosted by Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., contains more than 400,000 scientific papers posted by their authors without peer review. (The papers often appear later in peer-reviewed journals). Its comprehensiveness makes arXiv (pronounced "archive") a valuable tool, Gerstein, the Yale researcher, says. If someone claims to make a new discovery, anyone can search this database and say, "No, you didn't. It's in the arXiv."
Nonetheless, Gerstein says he thinks scientific journals, and some kind of peer review, will be around for a long time. Publishing in prestigious journals is "deeply intertwined with [scientists'] reputations and their promotions," he says. "You still want to get the stamp of approval of a journal."