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意得輯觀點Dr. Eddy tutorial - Post-publication peer review---an unexplored avenue
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尚未開發的新世界-發表後的同儕審閱

儘管科學研究進步極為快速,時常還是會出現無法複製的研究、黑心期刊出版商、違反學術倫理等情況阻礙研究發展的腳步,為了排除這種情況,研究論文在發表出版前都會經過同儕審閱的程序,但有時候,還是會有有問題的研究被發表,一個有效找出這些有缺陷研究的方法是「發表後的同儕審閱」。近來最有名的爭議案例是STAP細胞研究,起先該研究被譽為突破性的發展,但在發表後沒多久就被同領域的研究人員發現研究有問題,因為研究結果無法複製。發表後的同儕審閱有機會能進一步確認研究的可信度。

發表前同儕審閱跟發表後同儕審閱有何不同呢?主要差別如下1

驗證

發表前的同儕審閱,會有2到3位與作者同領域的研究人員來審閱研究,由他們找出有問題的研究細節的機率不高,而發表後的同儕審閱是由全部學術界研究人員來審閱研究。

透明度

傳統的同儕審閱只有少數研究人員參與審閱過程,發表後的同儕審閱開放給所有想要驗證已發表研究的人員,研究人員甚至可以直接公開發表自己對研究的意見,或是透過間接的方式如聯繫期刊、直接聯繫作者或以匿名方式公開發表對研究的意見。

交流

傳統的同儕審閱是由期刊編輯、審閱委員和作者三方進行意見交流,發表後同儕審閱則是由全部同領域專家一同參與,在這種情況下,專家的意見需要有一定的吸引力才能引起注意與討論,而發表前的同儕審閱則是不論凝聚力如何,直接依賴審閱委員決議。


如今己進入線上發表時代,分享自己對已發表研究的看法變得很簡單,同領域裡的專家們可以引用論文然後在自己的部落格裡表達他們的看法,不過問題是作者本身可能不知道自己的研究被他人討論,因為發表論文與部落格之間並沒有連結。不過,有些第三方單位重新設計了發表後同儕審閱介面,一些可用的平台如下2:

  1. PubPeer:允許用戶評論絕大部分有DOI的論文,但該網站和出版商的網頁是分開的。
  2. PubMed Commons:該平台建置在PubMed上使用評論,目前處於測試階段,PubMed Commons 邀請PubMed文章的作者參與並對發表論文進行評論,審閱為非匿名機制。
  3. Open Review:由學術社交平台ResearchGate 所建置的工具,鼓勵作者對在平台上的發表論文進行公開評論,該工具結合制度化回應機制與評論功能3

現在已經能夠對已發表研究發表評論,但不是所有研究人員都想使用這個功能,背後有幾個因素,一種情況是有些作者不想讓自己的研究同儕因為自己的批判感到挫敗,所以並不是很積極地提供自己的看法。另外一種情況是有些作者不是很能接受自己的研究被公開評論,因為害怕成為專業妒忌或偏見的受害者。《英國醫學期刊》(British Medical Journal,BMJ)編輯和聯合健康集團(UnitedHealth Group)宿疾項目總監Richard Smith 認為研究人員缺乏公開評論研究的誘因,經常在Scholarly Kitchen部落格發文的Kent Andersonk 則在部落格文中提到發表後審閱的可能衍生的問題

科學研究最奇特之處在於它奠基於可公開審查質疑的事實上,一個極小的缺乏可信度的要素就可能推翻一個大理論,而一個可以複製的研究發現可能導致一個理論被接受成為事實,科學這種健全且不斷發展的特質是發表後同儕審閱的根源。根據加州大學伯克萊分校生物學家暨霍華德休斯醫學研究所學者Michael Eisen表示:「現在科學交流最大的問題是我們以論文在哪裡發表來評估研究的有效性和重要性,這是一種不對稱的價值觀。」Michael Eisen 的說法沒有錯,任何研究的真正考驗是其在真實世界裡的運用和在全世界都可發生的再生性。最終,科學研究界可以獲取並驗證任何研究的可信度,因此發表後同儕審閱應該要有更高的接受度。

您對發表後的同儕審閱有什麼看法?歡迎分享您的意見。
Contributors


Post-publication peer review---an unexplored avenue

Although the pace of scientific progress has been rapid, at times, its momentum falters due to stumbling blocks such as irreproducibility of research, fraudulent publications, and honest mistakes. To weed out such instances, published research undergoes pre-publication peer review. Despite this, bad science sometimes finds its way to publication. One of the predominant ways through which flawed research comes to light after it is published is post-publication peer review. An example of this is the recent controversy over the STAP stem cell research. The STAP stem cell research was deemed as groundbreaking, but soon after its publication, fellow researchers found that the claims were improper, considering the study's irreproducibility. Post-publication research can, thus, be extremely efficient in ratifying published research.

What distinguishes pre-publication review from post-publication review? These are some of the crucial aspects1:1

  • Validation:In pre-publication peer review, research is screened by two or three peers of the author. Thus, the odds of them spotting every small detail that can raise questions about the credibility of the research are few. In post-publication peer review, the entire scientific community can review the research.
  • Transparency:Unlike the traditional peer review, which is largely secretive and involves only a selected number of peers, post-publication peer review is open for all who wish to validate the published research. Moreover, it can be direct wherein fellow researchers can openly publish their views about the research, or indirect, wherein they can write to the journal that published the research, contact to the authors themselves, or post their review openly but anonymously.
  • Communication:Traditional peer review is an exchange of views between the editors, peer reviewers, and authors. On the other hand, post-publication peer review is a communication between experts in the field and the community at large. In this case, the experts’ opinions need to be compelling enough to attract attention and discussion. Pre-publication assessment, on the other hand, relies on reviewers’ judgment irrespective of its coerciveness.

In today’s age of online publication, sharing reviews on published research has become easy. Experts in the field can cite a paper and share their viewpoints on it on their personal blogs. However, the difficulty is that the author may not know that his/her work is being discussed as there is no connection between the publishers’ version of the article and the blog post. However, in recent times, post-publication peer review has been redesigned by some third parties. Some of the available platforms are2:

  1. PubPeer:It allows users to make comments on almost any article that has a DOI, but the site is separate from publishers’ web pages.
  2. PubMed Commons:This platform is built into PubMed for using comments. Currently in a pilot phase, PubMed Commons invites authors of PubMed papers to join and comment on papers. The review is not anonymous.
  3. Open Review:This tool is built by the academic social network ResearchGate. It encourages authors to publish open feedback to papers published on the network. The feature combines a structured feedback mechanism with commenting facilities3.

Despite these avenues to comment effectively on published research, not all in the scientific community are intent on using them. There are various reasons for this. Some authors are not enthusiastic about offering their review because they do not wish to upset their peers by critiquing their research. Moreover, personal reasons such as not giving away ideas on improvisation and pathways for further research could come into play. Interestingly, some authors are not open to their research being publicly commented on; one of the reasons for this could be the fear of being a victim of professional jealousy or biases. Richard Smith, who served as an editor of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and is director of the United Health Group’s chronic disease initiative, feels that there is a lack of incentive for researchers to comment on published research. In a similar thread, Kent Anderson, who blogs on The Scholarly Kitchen writes that probably the belief that published findings could be incorrect and the hope of correcting them might work as an incentive for some. Due to these reasons, post-publication peer review remains largely an unexplored discourse.

The most peculiar characteristic about science is that it is based on facts that are open to scrutiny and questioning; the smallest level of incredibility can overthrow a big theory, whereas replication of findings can lead to acceptance of a theory as a fact. This robust and ever-evolving nature of science has its roots in post-publication peer review. According to Michael Eisen, a biologist at UC Berkeley and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, “The biggest problem in science communication today is the disproportionate value we place on where papers are published when assessing the validity and importance of a work of science.” As he rightly points out, the real test of any research is its application in the real world and its universal reproducibility. Ultimately, it is the fellow research community that can assess and validate the credibility of any piece of scientific work. And hence, post-publication peer review should gain a wider acceptance.

What are your views about the efficiency of post-publication peer review? Please share your thoughts.
Contributors