Monday, May 14, 2007
An interesting column from The Scientist on the confidentiality of peer review and other materials. The conclusion:
So what possible benefit can confidentiality serve? Who is being protected from what? One editor who responded to my e-mail replied that “review processes everywhere benefit from candor, and abundant experience tells us that without confidentiality evaluators are likely to be less candid.”
If this is true, it can be accommodated by instituting a period of confidentiality for manuscript files. Here’s my proposal: Science journals open their files to reasonable requests after a five-year interval. Just as government files are made public – in the United Kingdom after a 30-year lag, in the United States after 25, according to change late last year – this would be a powerful contribution to an open society. It will get to the heart of how research is done and how human relationships govern science. And it will be a goldmine for science history studies, which are not given nearly enough credence.
I’d love a couple of months’ sabbatical poking around in the dusty storerooms of the major journals, wouldn’t you?