Late in 2013 I posted an entry to this blog which described PubPeer,
the newly implemented system for post publication peer review. In that blog I raised the question whether this is a good
idea compared to other opportunities for post publication commentary such as
letters to the editor or even new publications which would either support or
challenge previously published research. The system has been going for a bit
over a year now and I thought it would be appropriate to revisit the question
of promise or chaos.
One of my principal concerns related to the ability of
anyone who met the qualifications to comment to jump in and comment. The necessary
qualifications are quite easy to meet and quite arbitrary. Anyone who has been
funded to do research by the National Institutes of Health (US) or the Wellcome
Trust (UK) is considered qualified. I have no idea why someone funded by the
National Science Foundation (US) or the National Research Council (Canada) is
not qualified. But I suppose this is why
they invented the word arbitrary. Anyone who has published a paper cited in
PubMed who can get a recommendation from a qualified colleague is also
qualified. It is not a requirement to know anything about the area of research
upon which you are commenting. As an investigator who has been supported by the
National Institutes of health and has a bunch of PubMed indexed articles I am
“qualified”. I can comment on any article indexed in PubMed. The problem, of course,
is that I am, in fact, not qualified by knowledge and experience to offer peer
review on the vast majority of the articles indexed in PubMed.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.