I have published in peer reviewed journals for many years (1). The impartiality of peer review, while not perfect, works reasonably well. Yet, there are drawbacks, especially for people like me who some of the time write articles that are more opinions and editorials than research. So here are some opinions about publishing in peer reviewed journals vs. “publishing” on a commercial web site.
Publishing in peer reviewed journals
The peer review process – works well for research articles. It is sometimes questionable for unsolicited, opinion type articles. For an opinion article that I published recently (2), the total time from initial submission to acceptance was about six months. The journal in which the article was published was the second journal to which the article was submitted. The article critiqued GUM (Guide to the expression of uncertainty of measurement). It was perhaps natural that the editors sent this manuscript to experts in GUM, who do not look kindly on articles that take an opposing view (e.g., I stated that GUM shouldn’t be carried out for commercial diagnostic assays). Since editors are often seeking to limit the number of pages accepted, round one is almost by definition – rejection. Given the reviewer comments, I consider it lucky that the article was published.
The circulation of peer reviewed journals – is attractive, yet even if there are many subscribers, there is of course no guarantee that my article will be read. In journals to which I subscribe, the number of articles that I read is a small percentage of all articles. There are articles for which I don’t even understand the title! Moreover, it is possible that if the journal does not provide free access, that non subscribers who come across my article as an abstract will not read it as the pay per view charges are pretty steep.
Publishing on a commercial web site
The speed of publication is fast – actually, it takes about a half an hour to be satisfied that things look ok. Color figures are routine, unlike print journals. I choose HTML although PDF files are possible, which are often used by online journals. (I avoid PDF files because they are at times hard to open).
Some review is possible – although it is not really peer review. Occasionally, I send out articles for comment before they are posted. I often receive comments the same day and use some of them, with acknowledgements.
I can see some details about circulation – by analyzing log files from the web site. This shows me1:
- how many people viewed the article
- where they are from (the organization and country but not the specific person)
- when they viewed the article
- what else they viewed on the site
- if they bookmarked the article
- if they found the article through a search engine, what were the search terms
- how else they got to the article (e.g., from another site for example)
- occasionally useful codes, such as 404 (file not found) indicating a bad link
Sometime there are other interesting things. For one article, I noticed that unlike most articles which were viewed once, this article was often viewed twice at two different times during the day, as if the response were “huh, run that by me again.”
1Less of interest to me but nevertheless available from log files, are attempts to hack into the web site, operating system used, browser used, and so on.
The potential for a virtual quality web for hospital labs
I am not the only one who publishes articles about lab quality. Perhaps one of these days, “we” (whatever that means) can put together a web site that provides links to all such articles.
- Krouwer, JS. A Critique of the GUM Method of Estimating and Reporting Uncertainty in Diagnostic Assays Clin Chem 2003;49:1218-1221.