Pitch in

I can't bear the thought of Alan not having anything to read via RSS so here's a quick post. It's nice to be missed, though I don't feel as though I've been away. As Seb has written, sometimes other things just take over your life. I've also been keeping my typing fingers busy with other projects.

While I was away doing other things David Wiley and team have set up their pitch with a new peer reviewed publishing project. Bravo! It's early days although a few papers have already been published. I'm not yet sure how Pitch will be different from other collaborative systems though with the pedigree of the first three authors I expect we'll see some great things. I anticipate that many of the hidden strengths of the project are in the work flow. Anyone who's had a paper peer reviewed and published in the 'established' literature will know that even rapid communications can take weeks to appear (though some are very rapid I accept) and a full paper can take months. Still, once your paper is accepted though it must be good, right? Well (stop the presses), no, peer review is no guarantee of truth, quality, and non-biased writing. That's reflected by the fact that we have tens of thousands of peer reviewed academic journals, often many tens or even hundreds of individual journals in the same small field. There are different degrees of 'truth', 'accuracy' and 'non-bias', at least there are in the published literature although in terms of absolutes there aren't of course (read this for a readable piece on understanding science and the science-based literature). Community interest and custom-and-practice can inadvertently perpetuate bias despite the most rigorous peer review.

But I digress (this is a topic that I tried writing about before but have yet to get it right), back to the work flow advantages and community commentary offered by journals like Pitch. With regards the lengthy traditional peer review process, of course it doesn't have to be this way. It's as much about peer consent as it is about peer review. By that I mean the academic community accepts that in order to publish in the literature you have to (as a generalisation) submit your paper to a journal's editorial team, submit to their peer review process, assign your copyright to the journal's publisher, and then finally pay to buy back a copy of your (hopefully) published paper. Well times they are a changin. Increasingly authors are retaining their own copyright, are contributing to electronic journals (though not all offer the apparent cost and time saving that the electronic medium would seem to offer thanks to the strangle-hold of the existing publishing industry) and through entrepreneurial publishing ventures are getting their papers for free. Communities are springing up around some online journals where commentary extends debate.

So, let us welcome Pitch and let's all pitch in and make it a success because it'll likely only ever be as successful as you make it.

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