Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Need Up-To-Date Research...Now?

The Public Library of Science has released a new website, PLoS Currents, to rapidly share research pertaining to influenza in response to global fears regarding H1N1.

The website is a joint venture with google that allows researchers to present their results to the world while side-stepping the lengthy publishing process. The research articles are looked over by expert moderators; however, the articles are not peer-reviewed in detail (peer-review is usually the rate determining step for publishing). Peer-review allows fellow researchers in the same field criticize the methodology, analysis, results, and conclusions of a research project. It is a check and balance in the scientific community. Peer-review ensures that an unjust conclusion that may incite unnecessary fear is not released to the general public.

However, the peer-review process certainly delays the distribution of scientific knowledge. A delay that may have disastrous consequences in the presence of a global pandemic.

I'm interested in seeing if the lack of a peer-review process results in PLoS Currents doing more harm than good with regards to rapidly spreading scientific knowledge. The PLoS openly states that results on their Currents website should be considered preliminary and they do point out that the articles have not been peer-reviewed, however, readers may not heed this warning. I believe that a hybrid publication system, involving immediate publication and peer-review, would be a huge win for everyone; I just hope it works.

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