May 2012
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#change11 Openness vs. openness

One of the main obstacles against one sense of openness is another sense of openness: In traditional peer reviewed journals, peers are open in one sense when they frankly give negative feedback; this is openness in the sense of trusted familiarity, like a chat among close friends who openly reveal their secrets to each other. Of course this excludes openness in the other sense, the sense of public accessibiity. As George V. says in his comment on Jenny’s blog:

“we know that faculty members are generally not inclined to post critical evaluation of colleagues’ ideas in public fora.”

This old model of peer review before publishing wastes a lot of time, and obstructs openness (in the accessibility sense) even if the paper is at last freely available. How does the opposite model of peer review after publishing look like? Would reviewers feel urged to do a three-valued evaluation, i. e. positive, negative, or abstention? George V. seems to assume this since he equates no reaction with no assessment:

“To illustrate: I have blog entries that received 0 comments and thus have not been ‘critically assessed.’ Or, one could say, were not interesting, or were not worthy of assessment.”

I think this old three-valued logic is no longer applicable to the abundant online world. We don’t have time to read each post and each comment, and we don’t have time to comment on each useful post, only on salient ones that strike a chord. Therefore, “no comment” would not mean poor quality. Positive comments, however, would be only the tip of the iceberg of agreement – of peer approval after publishing.

(Maybe there would indeed be fewer negative comments, or controversy, than in closed review circles. But helpful, constructive criticisms would certainly not cease, or be ignored, as they often do today in the traditional procedures.)

15 May 2012 | change11 | Comments

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