An academic social network is aiming to transform the peer review process using crowdsourcing.
Academia.edu has launched a service called PaperRank, which gives each article on the site a score based on how many recommendations it has received from other researchers.
This rating is weighted by the reputation of the scholar doing the recommending, which is calculated using the scores of their own articles.
The highest scoring papers will then be promoted to other scholars with similar research interests.
At first, the website is allowing 2,000 “editors” to rate papers, allowing researchers’ reputations on the site to develop gradually. These individuals must have experience of being journal editors and must be experts in their field.
But, in the longer term, the website hopes to allow all of its 27 million members to rate papers.
Richard Price, the founder and chief executive of Academia.edu, said that PaperRank would dramatically increase the number of peer reviews that a paper receives.
“The role of journal editors traditionally has been to find two reviewers who will read the paper and do a good job,” said Dr Price, a Briton who studied for a DPhil in philosophy at All Souls College, Oxford. “Our thought is, can you use the network to share the paper with a very large number of people who are experts in the field and let it find its home.”
To recommend a paper, an academic has to declare that they have read the paper, and that it is a worthwhile contribution to the field.
Dr Price said that the recommendation process should be effective within weeks, rather than the traditional journal peer review process which took, he said, an average of 12 months.
He rejected suggestions that PaperRank would be reduced to a popularity contest, arguing that the fact recommendations would be publically recorded meant that there was more reputational risk to gaming the system.
“In the current system you have to do the bidding of two peer reviewers and the editor,” Dr Price said. “In this model it is more agile and more democratic, because you can get a paper out and find people around the world for whom your paper is interesting.
“I think it means the field can move more dynamically when the ‘gatekeeper’ model becomes more of an open system.”