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Social Media and the Seven Twitter Accounts

“Postpublication peer review on social media is like the mosh pit at a punk rock conference. It’s fast, uncoordinated, a lot less subtle, more in your face, and involves a few more risks.’

Peer review is the cornerstone of scientific legitimacy – it is the process where research is analysed by your professional peers. Traditionally, this has been conducted before the publication of an article. However, with the advent of the digital age of communications, particularly with regards to social media and the advent of ‘Web 2.0’, things are beginning to change. We now have systems in place where not just experts, but anyone, can comment on and evaluate research at many stages of the research publication process.

Zen Faulkes, recently published a new article describing how this system of online discussion has the potential to be a game changer for scientific progress, but is buffered at every corner by authors and editors. In spite of this, players like F1000 are employing clever systems of postpublication peer review that are changing the traditionally closed and ‘end of research’ perspective and practice of peer review. Many new systems are now emerging – it’s just a case of again, shifting a cultural norm to embrace that the internet is changing the way we conduct and publish research.

Zen concludes his thoughts on postpublication peer review by stating that it should be seen as a valuable addition, and not a strict alternative, to traditional forms of peer review, something that I agree with. You just won’t get the consistently high [typical] standard of  reviews if you switch to a formal ‘publish then review’ system, unless the incentive system is changed. Look at how it works now – only ‘high impact’ articles making outrageous claims are usually picked out, not that ‘run of the mill’ research article – they might receive a couple of comments, but nothing that could match the strength of traditional peer review (actually, if there’s any data on this, that’d be awesome!)

Academics of all forms are now embracing social media as part of their every day practices, from Twitter to blogging, and Google Plus to Slideshare. It has never been easier to share and contribute to knowledge, and to interact with others doing so. Do you think use of social media should be formally integrated on a much broader scale in to how we publish and continuously refine research as a process of collaborative openness? Would it require some sort of regulation, such as on anonymity or who can comment on articles? Should reviews be moderated, or the floodgates opened? Or, as Zen ponders, do we academics need an attitude shift to embrace the values of social media in the scientific process? Thoughts below more than welcome! 🙂

Final thought: The amount of times I hear academics hear about or read a new paper, and casually respond “Yeah, it was shit.”, and then do nothing about it – wouldn’t you rather a formal response was made as opposed to a tame dismissal? You know, like in the form of a blog?

Another final thought: What if publishers (e.g., like PLOS are doing) had accompanying blog sites where academics could submit reviews of papers to accompany their publication? That’d be cool, and offer some sort of centralisation as opposed to just happening to stumble across review posts.

Reference:

Faulkes, Z. (2014) The vacuum shouts back: postpublication peer review on social media, Neuron82, 258-260 (link, and accompanying blog post)

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Jon began university life as a geologist, followed by a treacherous leap into the life sciences. He is now based at Imperial College London, investigating the extinction and biodiversity patterns of Mesozoic tetrapods – anything with four legs or flippers – to discover whether or not there is evidence for a ‘hidden’ mass extinction 145 million years ago. Alongside this, Jon researches the origins and evolution of ‘dwarf’ crocodiles called atoposaurids. Prior to this, there was a brief interlude were Jon was immersed in the world of science policy and communication, which has greatly shaped his view on the broader role that science can play, and in particular, the current ‘open’ debate. He tweets as @Protohedgehog.

3 Comments

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    Do we academics need an attitude shift to embrace the values of social media in the scientific process?

    NO. Maybe I am somewhat biased by the climate “debate” where papers are attacked for their inconvenient conclusions and not for their lack of scientific merit, but I would argue that academics should keep their high quality standards and not go down to the social media level. And I say that as a blogger myself; also my blog posts do not have the level of a scientific article and the ones of the political opposition are have a horrible “scientific” level.

    Some sort of post publication possibility to comment on papers may be nice, however. Already just by the authors themselves. New research and thinking may show weaknesses of old papers that may not be worth an official correction, but would be nice to know for the reader.

  2. Pingback: Social Media in Politics Research? - Israel Foreign Affairs

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    The understanding of “social media” is rather broad. I do not see a role for Twitter in the peer review process because space is too short, but blogs give us the space to review a paper and formulate criticism. But it would not help the cause if reviews are spread across blogs. I thus see the future in centralized platforms such as PubPeer where reviewers and authors can interact with each other.

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