Q: Can’t research blogging serve the function of open post-publication peer review?

Short answer: Research blogging is important, but we also need a crystallized scientific record of post-publication reviews.

Research blogging fills an important gap: between informal discussions and formal publications. Unlike a private informal discussion, a blog is publicly accessible. Unlike a scientific paper, a blog post can be altered or removed from public access. Blog posts are also often anonymous, whereas papers are signed and author-authenticated.

These more fluid properties of blogs make for their unique contribution to scientific culture. However, the very fluidity of blogs also makes them inadequate as the sole vessel of scientific publishing. In particular, blogging lacks the quality of “scholarly crystallization”.

A scientific publication needs to be crystallized in the sense that it is a constant historical record that can be accessed permanently and therefore cited.

scholarly crystallization

Crystallized scientific publications include papers and reviews. Reviews are crystallized publications that serve mainly to evaluate one or several other crystallized publications. Crystallized publications are typically digitally authenticated documents that reference other scientific publications.

Crystallization does not mean that the work cannot be revised.

Revisions can be made and a revision can “take precedence” over the previous version of a publication. This means the revision will be the first thing seen by the user. However, the author cannot edit a published paper. Instead a revision is a separately published document linked to the previous version of the paper and accompanied by a “justification statement” that addresses the changes (typically in response to reviewer’s comments). The justification statement is needed for the revision to take precedence over the previous version and inherit its references: The authors of signed reviews are automatically informed about revisions and need to either reiterate or revise their supportive or critical reviews. Revisions may also be limited to two per year.

As a consequence, each publication and each revision requires a substantial commitment of its authors. The entire history of original publications and revisions remains permanently publicly accessible and the authors have no right or ability to remove this record.

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