In my brand of "hardish" science, peer review still works tolerably well, in the sense that a good referee can improve a paper. However, the only effect of the reviewing is merely to maintain a hierarchy of journals ("Rip it up and start again", 16 December).
Every paper, however poor, can find its way into some "peer-reviewed" journal or another. Publishers have not shied away from making money by printing peer-reviewed journals in make-believe subjects such as homeopathy. At that point, peer review becomes no more than a bad joke.
The tyranny imposed by science publishers has to be broken because it harms science, intellectually as well as financially. I too suspect that some sort of self-publication will be the future. It would generate no more dross than appears anyway and would save a great deal of money and time. It would also allow the publication of proper experimental details and raw data because it would be free of the artificial length limits currently imposed.
David Colquhoun, via www.timeshighereducation.co.uk.
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