‘In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.’ – Galileo Galilei
The present system of dissemination of research is primarily based upon publication in ‘peer reviewed’ journals. While the journals themselves stand to gain profit from the research done by scientists, the hapless researcher can think of only one gain, i.e., being published in a ‘peer reviewed’ ‘prestigious journal’. In today’s world, many such ‘prestigious’ journals even demand money from the researchers for publishing their work. The much debated ‘peer review’ that such journals ensure primarily include the opinions only a few ‘know-it-alls’. While much trash pass through this ‘very efficient’ system, many great works are ridiculed. Journals lose so much of their funds maintaining such a process.
However, the journals did once serve their purpose. The journal-system once used to be one of the best forms of dissemination of research, before it hit the stone-wall of scientific elitism driven almost entirely by profit-making forces. This system of publication is obsolete (to put it very mildly) and its replacement by more efficient systems is long overdue. In today’s information-driven world there can be no place for any false sense of intellectual aristocracy. Advent of the Internet and cloud-based storage, which allows peers to look easily into each other’s work, has made the logic behind continuing with the medieval system of ‘peer review’ even more ineffectual.
Discussing with an open mind, what purpose do the journals serve now except serving commercial interests of a select few? A free storage service like the arXiv should be enough for disseminating research. While this particular storage has turned elitist over time, new ones like figshare have many added features to make the work of the scientific community easier. Figshare makes good use of cloud based storage and it allows all forms of research to be published. A peer review by the whole scientific community is always better than that done by a chosen few. The journals can still survive ‘scavenging’ for their favoured research works that are already published in Open Science data-repositories. They can choose works from such repositories and re-publish them if they wish to, giving due credit. However, dissemination of research in a place like figshare should be enough for the researcher in terms of publication and credit. A progressive involvement of the community of scientists, as a whole, is required for providing these new systems the much needed impetus.