WebMedCentral revisit

I posted about WebMed Central and post-publication review last week. I couched it in the terms of the problem with ‘big data’ and traditional publishing: The amount of data available (demand) is far greater than the available number of traditional and open-access pre-review publications (supply). This, along with other factors, is why Mary keeps saying “The data isn’t in the papers any more.”

Even as we are finding that the data isn’t in the papers, neither is much of the analysis. WebMed Central and pre-publication review is a possible partial solution. But, Andrew Johnson revisited this with me (he has a paper at WMC I mentioned … along with traditionally published research), his comments (edited andused with permission :) are interesting and speak to the problems with this approach:

Here is my further experience – the journal sent me an automated notice that the article hadn’t been reviewed. Apparently this gets sent every 2 weeks until 2 reviews are completed. So I spent about an hour scouring the literature looking for people I thought would be qualified and/or interested reviewers and then mass mailing about 50 of them. Net result: 1 review…

This reviewer model definitely takes burden away from the journal and puts it on the authors. How many authors have the time to invite 50 (+15 for the initial set of invitees) individuals to review? And how unbiased can the reviews be? …

I had some replies from trusted colleagues who expressed interest in the topic but indicated they don’t have time. I completely understand that….

On a positive note, I had a message from someone who was interested in discussions based on their current lab work and direction. Of course this type of thing also happens via contact to corresponding authors on traditional papers.

So far it seems to me this WebMedCentral type model is not likely to be highly successful. It may provide a place for negative results and some interesting, worthwhile science but unless PubMed or others index these types of forums I think they will largely be ignored. I think it may provide some remedy for scientists who can’t afford page charges though many journals will give waivers if needed.

The jury is out still on this type of publication, we’ll have to revisit it later.

Preprints (different animal, same solution zoo) have had success like for physics and even biology in the form of Nature Precedings (though with only less than 2,000 ‘preprints’, it’s limited success).

One thought on “WebMedCentral revisit

  1. Mary

    This is an interesting idea. But I think it has the same issues as all the other “wikifications”. We all want them to work–but everyone is busy with the stuff they need to do for their regular work, teaching, and research. Adding volunteer burdens–and now we’re supposed to do all the curation on our own as well–I think it’s just too much. I understand the appeal, I really do. But there are so few successful examples.

    And the ones that are touted as successful often have other issues, such as small and narrow participant communities, some kind of requirement via project management/grant agency/publishers, or actually ended up paying people to “seed” the community.

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