Double-blind and single-blind processes continue to dominate academic peer review. Too often this results in a ‘black box’ – a system without sufficient transparency for authors, readers and reviewers alike. Hopefully one day fully transparent (and even public) peer review will come to be seen as acceptable throughout the world of academic publishing. For now we must take small steps to break down this barrier, just as Cureus works to break down barriers to publication.
Team Curēus talked with Matthew LaVelle, Wayne State University School of Medicine. His entry in the Healthcare Technology category won the Grand Prize in our Curēus Fall 2012 International Poster Competition.
Matthew worked at Columbia University as both a research assistant in the field of cardiothoracic surgery and as a perfusionist with the heart and lung transplant team. He hopes to leverage his ongoing passion for the development and institution of medical technology into a career as a surgeon.
Our video team caught up with Jay Gantz on campus at the University of Washington where he is a graduate student and medical student in a combined degree program completing his fourth year PHD.
Jay Gantz won 2nd place with his Cardiology poster submission entered in the Curēus Fall 2012 Poster Competition. In addition to his passion for medicine, Jay Gantz is also an accomplished cellist who loves the challenge of skiing in the great Northwest.
The New Yorker is the latest publication to pick up on the myriad of issues surrounding scientific publishing in their article Cleaning Up Science by Gary Marcus.
Science is no more immune to mistakes and dubious activity than any other discipline because in the end it involves humans. When you add the “publish or perish” pressure to the equation then issues are going to arise.
Introducing more efficient publishing models and systems of checks and balances helps minimize the kinds of issues John Ionnidis, MD of Stanford has revealed for years.
Curēus was created to better serve medical authors in a number of ways including the introduction of a more democratic form of scientific discovery. On Curēus the potential for politics is removed…reviewers are positioned to help an author improve his or her paper without giving this select group of reviewers the ability to “kill” a paper.
Paper quality is determined after a paper is published through our crowd-sourcing system called Scholarly Impact Quotient (SIQ). Authors also retain copyright and their papers are published quickly and at no cost.
For example, papers on Curēus may be rejected for the following reasons; scientific fraud, misleading or potentially clinically dangerous material, as well as obvious copyright violations.
In the end, we believe this open model for medical publishing not only better serves authors, but patients as well.
“The best science is cumulative, not just a list of fun results; as people push deeper, bad ideas that are invalid eventually crumble. Even if nothing changed, we would eventually achieve the deep understanding that all scientists strive for. But there is no doubt that we can get there faster if we clean up our act.” – The New Yorker
The San Francisco Chronicle interviewed John Adler, MD, Professor of Neurosurgery, Stanford University and Editor-in-Chief at Curēus. They were interested in our revolutionary concept of using crowdsourcing to evaluate and publish medical papers.
John Adler points out that “Nowadays, you wouldn’t go to a restaurant without Yelping it first. You wouldn’t go see a movie without seeing what Rotten Tomatoes had to say about it.”
Still for some reason the world of medical journals is stuck in a 200 year old paradigm. He has spent the last three years changing the status quo.
The Curēus model was created to expedite the process of medical publishing. An editorial board of experts will review submitted papers within days rather then months. But most of all, Curēus is moving medical journals into the open from behind pay walls.
“The average Joe has little to no access to the medical literature today,” Adler said. “It’s not right. It should be a human right.”
Although the idea of crowdsourcing seems revolutionary, Dr. Adler’s vision has been stirring for some time.
He writes in A New Age Of Peer Reviewed Scientific Journals that he founded Curēus “to address the challenges I have observed first-hand as an editor of numerous journals and an academic physician who has published and reviewed for years. We can do much better by authors, reviewers and certainly patients. This is the mission of Curēus.”
Read the entire article at SF Gate.
Update: Fast Company picked this story up as well.
Team Curēus stopped by the Stanford University campus to meet with Bowen who describes himself as an “aspiring neurosurgeon-scientist-innovator” in his profile.
Bowen is currently in is last year of medical school.
Last week the New England Journal of Medicine announced that a survey of readers selected the 1842 publication of a paper by Henry Jacob Bigelow, reporting the first use of anesthesia, as the single most important paper in the 200 year old history of the journal.
Given the future implications of what was being reported in this paper, especially as we now look back over the medical landscape 150 years later, I cannot disagree with the selection. However, what I do find more than a little bit ironic is that such a paper, if submitted today, would stand almost no chance of being published in the NEJM, or virtually any so-called high impact journal.
As the Bigelow paper wended through the review process, this in-hindsight completely transformational paper, would be rightly criticized (and surely killed) as being little more than anecdote.
There is certainly no randomized blinded trial with rigorous statistical measures that ensures the quality of findings live up to the highest “scientific standards”. Moreover, lacking an IRB stamp of approval would certainly invalidate the paper for publication right out of the gate.
So I ask, have the standards of the NEJM and nearly all modern journals become so obtuse and elevated that the findings they now report are irrelevant to truly novel clinical innovation?
Also last week, I was advised by one of the journals for which I have long served as an editor, that future observational studies, if they are to even be considered for publication, must now assiduously adhere to STROBE guidelines.
Such STROBE guidelines represent the consensus of a 2004 big funded workshop, i.e. self appointed committee, composed of editors and sundry luminary academics who, presumably with the best of intentions, felt compelled to improve the reporting of observational studies.
But what started as well meaning “guidelines” have (perhaps not surprisingly) now morphed into a compulsory directive enforced by the editor in chief. Will the quality of the journal articles now being published under the STROBE guidelines truly benefit from this new set of regulations? Surely the editor in chief and politically-connected self-appointed STROBE experts would argue yes, but notably these sacrosanct “guidelines” have themselves never been subjected to any empirical test.
What I am quite confident about is that the journal in question has put up yet another barrier to authors reporting potentially interesting, and even ground breaking, clinical studies. As a result is it possible that that today’s equivalent to the good Dr. Bigelow’s reporting of anesthesia will go undiscovered because of the sheer hassle of publishing in the peer reviewed literature?
Is it possible that STROBE processes might drive some of today’s clinical innovators to just throw up his or her hands and say no thank you to reporting their findings? This leads to the bigger question, should the process of publishing a paper trump the power of scientific ideas within?
Readers of Curēus are well aware of our Journal’s bias in this regard!