Open Peer Review and MRI

I have decided that my inaugural post on this respectable, scientific blog should, of course, be filled with rampant speculation and ungrounded commentary. Sadly, Aziz does not have that “Organizing the Secret (Yet Open-Source) Cabal that Shall Rule ISMRM” tag for this blog…Respectable commentary on image reconstruction coming later in the week.

One thing that I have followed with some interest is the recent open peer review/open access movement. One comment I’ve heard is that if “pre-publication” review is shortened or eliminated, various negative consequences will ensue: scientists will have little motivation to send in comments, mean quality of a publication will suffer, etc.

So, here’s a crazy idea: create an open-PR MR journal (make it electronic only, even) and focus it on the areas of MR that are not well-served by the current paradigm. Have an editor give submissions a cursory check, and send it off. Focus it in the following (non-exhaustive list of) areas:

  • Simple measurements (scattered useful information, such as the T1 of a group of body tissues at 7T)
  • Negative results
  • Commentary on reasonably straight-foreward tasks that might have a minor hitch (“My experience combining SENSE, EPI, and Dixon”).

Basically, make a purposefully low-impact journal, at least as an initial experiment. Give it a small audience, so that people can keep up with it. Make it over simple topics so that you don’t feel nervous if you want to use it in your own research. And then see how it works.

What does everone else in the blogosphere think?

8 thoughts on “Open Peer Review and MRI”

  1. I think it’s a great idea, as long as we meet two criteria. The first would have to be that we have enough gravitas on the “Editorial” lineup to ensure that the average MR professional won’t feel like the open journal is just… a blog or something. The second would be to actively solicit content so that the journal is actually interesting.

    Though it occurs to me that this very blog could in fact be the nucleus of such a thing. There’s no reason why someone couldn’t post their initial T1 measurements in gray matter at 9.4T here. After all, we create manuscripts out of pre-published snippets and ISMRM abstracts and whatnot all the time.

    Ultimately I think we have everything we need right here. We just need to make sure that we maintain a commitment, of commenting and contributing, to keep this place interesting enough to attract the interest of others in our field. Then value will then snowball from there as they in turn comment and contribute.

  2. Currently, I favor a more open review and publication process. For all of its history and hype, the current peer review systems allows a lot of crap to be published. People usually remember good articles and forget the rest.

    One advantage of an online journal would be its ability to include much more actual data. I’m sure I’m not alone at suspecting some people only publish the best spectra or images (or other data)and refer to them as “representative”. Requiring people to show more raw data would improve science IMO.

    And would there be anything wrong with making papers interactive like a blog? An author posts an article. Somebody else asks some questions, encouraging the author, or others, to do more experiments to clarify the point. I wonder if this would change the idea of authorship? Could each person who contributed to the science of a blog paper be considered an author?


    PS – Could we make up a new word for a blog paper? Blaper? 🙂

  3. Actually PLoS just launched a more open system in beta mode this December called PLoS One. Here’s an article on it from the media. Also, recently Nature magazine tried experimenting with Open Peer Review, but that effort failed to attract more attention. Hopefully PLoS One has more critical mass.

    I think that for an open journal to work it really needs to be focused. Nature and PLoS are broad journals; here at RefScan we are more focused on our field (sub field, sub sub field actually). I think that the trick is to build a following within the community and then leverage that into an open system once you have a decent enough size audience to sustain it. We should do exactly that here at refscan, IMHO.

  4. I think publishing the MRI data is a great idea but I don’t think you should wait for third parties or a detailed organizational structure to do so. Just put it on any convenient vehicle that is quickly indexed by Google so that people who are looking for it will find it. A blog or wiki is perfect for that. You can always copy or move the data later on when the structure is ready.

  5. I think these are good ideas, but there are a couple of things I think we have to keep in mind. First, for better or worse, success in academia is still largely based on the number of publications, especially publications in high-profile journals. I think this immense pressure to publish has led to the creation of thousands upon thousands of journals and wide range in the quality of work that is being published. It would be a full-time job for multiple people just to keep up with what is being published in the MR community.

    Scientific journals seem to have gotten away from their original intent – to communicate effectively with other scientists. Perhaps a blog is the best forum for that, but I don’t see it happening effectively while there is so much emphasis placed on publishing results in traditional journals. People still want to get their work published before being scooped by another group, and I just don’t know how willing people will be to put their un-published work online. Perhaps it is time that emphasis be put back on communicating effectively and develop a different metric to measure scientific success.

  6. Rebecca’s point is something that I had in the back of my mind, but should have said explicitly.

    If someone (and I personally feel like we lack the gravitas to succeed, but other opinions may differ) created a non-traditional journal, it could not compete with MRM/JMRI/MRI/etc., simply because too many careers depend too heavily on getting publications in “reputable” journals.

    What is possible is to create a journal of sub-publishable results: information that benefits the community to have written down somewhere, but which isn’t groundbreaking. If it turns out to work very well, then it might be worth considering for more traditional ends.

  7. Supporting existing experimental journals could help. I recently submitted an article to the Journal of Insect Science ( and it’s almost entirely an online journal. I chose it because the bulk of the paper was in movie form and although I included figures, watching the movies was essential to understanding the paper. Traditional journals would include it the movies in the supplemental information because they are print journals.

  8. I think that it’s wise for anyone putting material out into the public domain to already have that material in the pipeline for a manuscript. I certainly wouldn’t advise someone to maintain a public “lab journal” blog, but if there are results that are going to eventually be part of a broader work, then there’s no harm, and you might even get useful feedback too. Ultimately, we have to decide on a case by case basis what we plan to make public and use our best judgement. As long as we are moderately willing to share interesting results, then we will definitely achieve something in terms of drawing interested professionals in our field to RefScan and building the community up.

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