Patently social

Peer review is one of those old chestnuts that people never seem to tire of discussing. Does it work? What is it? Do we like it? Can it be improved? Do we need it? Why won’t it just go away? etc etc
A blurb for the International Symposium on Peer Reviewing: ISPR 2009 digs up some choice quotes:

In a survey of members of the Scientific Research Society, only 8% agreed that ‘peer review works well as it is’.

Far from filtering out junk science, peer review may be blocking the flow of innovation and corrupting public support of science

They conclude:

The almost unanimous agreement about peer reviewing as principle, and the huge disagreement about its current methods, are a clear sign that more efforts are needed … to identify more effective methodologies and support systems … so the real purpose of peer review is better fulfilled.

Meanwhile, in another part of NN, a suggestion for simplifying peer review down to a simple rating system was gently pushed aside, before some clever clogs (ahem) found that a recent conference had used just such a system to rate submitted abstracts.
So I was fascinated to see this morning a press release today about a paper in the International Journal of Technology Transfer and Commercialisation – not my usual breakfast table reading matter. This described the Peer-to-Patent pilot project that used social networking techniques to help deal with the backlog of patent submissions to the US Patent Office (USPTO).

… the USPTO initiated a pilot project that uses social networking software to allow groups of volunteer review experts to upload prior art references, participate in discussion forums, rate other user submissions and add research references to pending applications. The aim was to allow the actual patent examiners to focus on reviewing the most relevant prior art associated with any particular submission and so streamline the overall application process.

This sounds like a very creative application of social networking. It’s not exactly peer review, but perhaps second cousin to peer review. Does this have any relevance to peer review as practised in journals?
To read the original article you will need a subscription to the journal.

About Frank Norman

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we slip from print through to electronic information resources.
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