Why do we publish? As the editor-in-chief of a medical journal, I struggle a lot with this question. After more than 200 years, peer-reviewed journals have clearly established themselves as medicine’s best arbitrator of truth. They are, or at least ideally should be, at the center of everything we practice in our clinics. Yet somehow we physicians, even those of us in academia, are blind to many of the important roles that journals serve in medicine today.
We don’t typically associate rejection with elation but a recent article in The Scientist suggests that getting your academic paper is not be such a bad thing.
A study of rejected academic papers compared their citation history after eventual publication with those never having been rejected. Somewhat surprisingly there appears to be upside to the initial repudiation.
Vincent Calgano, an evolutionary biologist and ecologist at the Institute for Agricultural Research in Sophia Antipolis, France gathered and studied data from The Thomson Reuters Institute for Scientific Information Web of Knowledge citation indexing service. They studied papers from 16 different fields published between 2006 and 2008 and emailed more than 200,000 corresponding authors from the papers. Not surprisingly, papers that were rejected tended to be resubmitted to journals with a lower Impact Factor.
What did surprise researchers was the fact that these previously rejected papers tended to be cited more frequently than papers that didn’t go through the submission gauntlet.
The research group concluded that papers that get rejected are often rewritten and polished more than others. This continued editing may have improved the paper, therefore enhancing its likelihood to be cited. Alternatively, authors only went to the effort of resubmitting a manuscript when they were convinced the paper did have merit.
Regardless of why rejected papers might get cited more frequently, this study illustrates the absurdity of the traditional review process in an era where technology has allowed us to evolve. For instance, it has been convincingly demonstrated that Wikipedia is at least as accurate as the “expertly” edited Encyclopedia Britannica and that Top Songs on iTunes are far more reflective of broad public interest than the Billboard 100.
Cureus has designed its medical publishing system so that editorial capriciousness, which is common to traditional peer review, is replaced by intelligent crowd-sourced scoring. The Cureus Scholarly Impact Quotient (SIG) is designed to separate the wheat from the chaff.
So while all papers are published, only the best articles with the highest SIQ tend to be read by the most number of people. Lower quality papers are still available to the public online. While they may not be as popular as the higher scored paper, they will serve as a valuable resource for a niche segment. And all of this content is good for the scientific community at large.
Ultimately the Cureus SIQ system facilitates a process for a much wider body of ideas to enter the conversation of scientific discourse. Unlike the traditional review process where individual papers can be “killed” as a result of personal bias, politics or a bad day at the office, crowd intelligence becomes a core filter.