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The Internet Revolution in the Sciences and Humanities$
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Alan G. Gross and Joseph E. Harmon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190465926

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190465926.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 16 June 2021

Evaluation Before Publication

Evaluation Before Publication

5 Evaluation Before Publication
The Internet Revolution in the Sciences and Humanities

Alan G. Gross

Joseph E. Harmon

Oxford University Press

In the midst of the controversy over the Nemesis affair—over whether a hidden star was the cause of periodic extinctions on Earth—David Raup and Jack Sepkoski were faced with a dilemma peer review had deliberately created: . . . The Tremaine analysis was technically hearsay, because it did not exist in the conventional sense of a scientific publication. To be sure, he sent us a copy of the manuscript shortly before submitting it for publication in a special volume based on the Tucson meeting. We were working on a response but could not say anything substantive about it publically, for fear of having our own paper on the subject disqualified by prior publication in the press. Besides, we had nothing to rebut until Tremaine’s paper was reviewed, revised, and finally published. . . . Precisely: Only peer review followed by publication gave them something to rebut. A survivor after a half-century of criticism concerning its efficacy, peer review remains the best guarantee that published manuscripts and funded grant proposals conform closely to community standards. Moreover, in both the sciences and the humanities, the review criteria are the same: originality, significance to the discipline, argumenta­tive competence, and clarity of expression. When we examine the ways the Internet is transforming peer review, we will see that the transparency and interactivity of the new medium make possible sounder judgments according to these criteria. Interactivity gives practitioners a firmer sense of the disciplinary-specific meanings of the standards on which their judgments are based; transparency broadcasts this firmer sense to the discipline as a whole. Under any form of peer review, knowledge is what it has always been, an agonistic system in flux, the site of a constant struggle for survival in the realm of ideas. But it is a system that cannot function properly unless each component—each bundle of claims, evidence, and argument—exhibits provisional stability. To confer this stability is the task of peer review.

Keywords:   Argument theory, Confirmation bias, Epistemic vigilance, Free sourcing, Interactivity, MediaCommons Press, Nature, Open peer review, Preference ordering, Rationality, Transparency

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