On July 4th I will speak at ESOF 2010, in Torino (Italy), about the topic of "What's up with peer review: The future of peer review in policy, research and public debates", in a panel which includes Philip Campbell, editor in chief of Nature (the magazine, not the bitch), and Adrian Mulligan from Elsevier.

As you might imagine, the topic is varied and spans several levels. Each of us will have 8 minutes to make a few points, and then a debate moderated by Tracey Brown (from Sense about Science, the organizer of the session) will ensue.

Here is the "abstract" for the session:

What is the future of peer review? What does it do for science and what
does the scientific community want it to do? Should it detect fraud and
misconduct? Does it illuminate good ideas or shut them down? Does it
help journalists report the status and quality of research? Why do some
researchers do their bit and others make excuses? And why are all these
questions important not just to journal editors, but to policy makers
and the public? In September 2009 Sense About Science in association
with Elsevier are publishing the latest results from worldwide survey
of 100,000 scientists’ preoccupations and preconceptions as both
authors and reviewers of scientific papers. The survey will explore
whether researchers attitudes to peer review are changing and whether
there is a gap between their perception of peer review and the reality
of what it can do. These insights will provide the baseline for
discussions on how the system needs to evolve to cope with challenges
it faces such as the expansion of the international research community,
the issues of fraud, the development of open access and the role peer
review plays in science policy and public debates about the quality of
science. In this session a panel will respond to these latest results
and discuss what the future for peer review is and what the
international community can do to address the challenges facing peer

Now, these are interesting topics, on which I am sure that some of you have quite definite ideas and opinions. Can I ask you to contribute by offering in the thread below your own thoughts, and proposals for what I should report at the session ? Your help is appreciated. To guide the discussion, here is a shorter list of issues I would like to collect thoughts about:

  • fraud detection: does it really work with peer review by scholars who often look at their peer review charges as a hindrance to more interesting obligations ?

  • Loosely connected to this issue, is the (arguably broader) topic of crackpottism, anti-crackpottism, and the degree to which we want "true science" to be sheltered from non-scientific attitudes. Blogs have beaten this topic to death, but in connection with the topic of the session above, there might be some ideas to bring up.

  • Do we need peer review in case the preprint article contains the signature of hundreds, or even thousands, of distinguished scientists collaborating in huge experiments ? Imagine a single reviewer rejects a paper with 2500 signatures (this happens). Is it not ridiculous ? What do you think ?