Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 27 Issue 02

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Volume 27, No. 2
Pages 7 - 7



By Matthias Tomczak  
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Dear Editor,

In the December 2013 issue of Oceanography our president made some insightful and worrying observations about the impact of social media on research choices, particularly of young scientists. It appears that online conversation lets people make remarks publicly that they would have reserved for private face-to-face insults or relegated to behind-the-back comments in the past. We in the science community should strive to maintain proper standards of communication, no matter how controversial a topic may be.

Online technology brought about social media and their frequent toxicity, but it can also help to promote good standards of debate through immediateness and openness. The European Geoscience Union (EGU) began several years ago to publish its journals under the Public Peer-Review & Interactive Public Discussion system. It puts submitted papers online as “Discussions”, which are open for public comment and debate while they are reviewed by expert referees. The reviewers’ comments, the author’s reply and the editor’s decision are also posted as part of the discussion. If the paper is accepted for publication the final version is published in the appropriate EGU journal. All contributions to the Discussion process remain available, regardless of the editor’s decision to accept or reject the submitted paper.

In my view the system has several advantages over the traditional peer-review system. It makes the review process more transparent; even if the referees choose to remain anonymous, public availability of their reports eliminates instances of malicious judgment. Young scientists who submit a paper on a controversial topic may receive adverse comments, but if the points they make are of any value they will also find support from others in the discussion, which can help them to counter malevolence from established colleagues. Even if a paper is rejected and its main ideas are found valid only years later, its existence in the Discussions section provides proof of priority of the ideas and can help the author to rectify earlier career setbacks.

The print edition of Oceanography is one of the finest publications in our science fields. There is no need to change its ways. But now that Oceanography has an online edition as well it may be time to consider whether the online edition should not move to the Public Peer-Review & Interactive Public Discussion system.

— Matthias Tomczak, Emeritus Professor of Oceanography, Fllinders University of South Australia


Tomczak, M. 2014. Letter to the editor. Oceanography 27(2):7, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2014.61.

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