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A Different Sort of Process

It's been 350 years since Philosophical Transactions, the first scientific journal, began publishing, and the meetings surrounding the celebration held by the UK Royal Society have gotten the University of Oxford's Dorothy Bishop thinking about the future of scientific publishing, as she writes at the Guardian.

Rather than the current model, she envisions one in which an investigator shares his or her protocol for evaluation before any work is done and then amends it based on the feedback received. Once the protocol is ready, it and its reviews are also posted online, along with the investigator's and reviewers' names.

"There are two key scientific advantages to this approach; first, reviewers are able to improve the research design, rather than criticize studies after they have been done," Bishop says. "Second, there is a record of what the research plan was, which can then be compared to what was actually done."

Refining the protocol could then be followed by, she adds, the investigator seeking collaborators and/or funding. Once the work is completed, written up, and reviewed by an editor, the final version would be deposited along with the initial proposal, data, and information about materials and analyses.

While she notes that there would need to be incentives for reviewers and ways to prevent trolling comments, Bishop argues that "we could greatly improve science by changing the point in the research process when reviewer input occurs, and by fostering a more open and collaborative style of publishing."