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June 21, 2006


Very interesting post, Richard, and thank you for the generous acknowledgement.

I think your observations about the "wisdom of the crowds" models are pertinent. One could also extraploate to citation analysis. (Many already have, of course). Google Scholar returns on the basis of how many people have cited articles with your keyword. The whole citation business is based on numbers of cites. Yet, as has been pointed out by many before me here, what of the reason for the cite--- is the paper wrong? controversial? etc.
I look forward to the MySpace thoughts, also I agree with your instincts about Wikis, maybe that is also a way to go --- a sort of cross between social moderation and a core group of peer review. This is one thing that the Nature experiment may help to provide some evidence either way for -- what is the "value" of free comments that anyone can post on a submitted manuscript, compared with those that an editor obtains from two or three selected peer reviewers (the eds and reviewers forming the equivalent to your wiki-small group of experts).

But of course, who has time to spend on making insightful comments on "submitted" (un-peer-reviewed) papers? A scientist who has committed to review a paper for a journal is one thing, but would people be prepared to provide anything like that deep level of analysis spontaneously? With the number of artices submitted and indeed published every year, hard to see it for all but the most exciting few. Shades of a circular argument beginning to develop here!

Slight side issue, but Chris Anderson's upcoming book "the Long Tail", which I haven't yet read, may go into the aspect of peer review/certification to which you allude above from a slightly different angle. Which is that many papers, even in the most prestigious journals, don't get cited (read). This is relevant to your point about "value" if the paper does not lead to or develop further a line of research. Does this all mean that there are too many papers being published? Or does it mean that people need an indication that they only need to bother reading 5 per cent of the published literature? Or other?

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