The scientific publishing industry as we know it today represents a structure of the past. It is profoundly tied to the medium of print, which is itself an artifact of a technical revolution hundreds of years old. Moreover, its routines and structures are rooted in paper as a communications and archiving technology, and its business models are based on the costs of physical distribution and review by a select few.via On Science Publishing § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM.
The traditional model of peer-reviewing before publishing was a necessity. An economic necessity as journals where just the front end of an industry that moved trees into paper. In the digital age peer review is necessary but also has to adapt. The cost of production is not tied to physical trees anymore.
Furthermore, the number of scientists trying to publish is growing every year. We moved from the times when one would publish 4 papers in a life time to publishing 4+ papers per year. This makes the traditional scientific publishing totally irrelevant if it stays in the same old mold.
My belief is that it is possible to move peer-review to AFTER publication, the same way we are now using h-indexes to determine who is more respected or more “genius”. Let open publishing be the norm and then let these papers iterate over the scientific scrutiny. Journals, will then play the role of curators of certain collections that will be put together from an existing pool of scientific papers. Those journals that want to publish better papers will have to contract reviewers (something that doesn’t happen today) and will earn scientific respect.
The system will be based on reputation, and not on feudalistic rulings of pre-publishing peer-reviewing. I think that the internet will help change many mentalities but more important it will be necessary to change the economics of the process. Going from a business model based on shuffling paper around to selling intelligent, insightful and relevant science, is publishers major challenge. Let’s hope they don’t screw it… again.