The journal Nature has started a three-month trial of a new peer review system. Here’s how it works: while a paper is sent out for traditional review, the authors can also choose to make it open for comments on the web. Any such comments are public and signed, and the authors can respond to them in public. Then, when making their acceptance decision, the editors take into account both the anonymous reviews and the public online discussion.
Personally, I think this is a phenomenal idea, and I hope it spreads to computer science sooner rather than later. I’ve always been struck by the contradiction between scientists’ centuries-old mistrust of secrecy — their conviction that “only mushrooms grow in the dark” — and their horror at signing their names to their opinions of each other’s work. Are we a bunch of intellectual wusses?
Inspired by Nature’s experiment, I’m going to try an experiment of my own. Rather than develop my views any further (which I don’t feel like doing), I’m just going to stop right here and open the field to comments. Go!