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【社会人文】匿名评审 by twitter zz from nature
These and hundreds of similarly enthusiastic headlines were touting a paper in Science1 in which researchers claimed to have identified a set of genes that could predict human longevity with 77% accuracy — a finding with potentially huge implications for medicine, health policy and the economy.
But even as the popular media was trumpeting the finding, other researchers were taking to the web to criticize the paper's methodology. "We expect that most of the results of this study will not have the same longevity as its participants," sniped a blog posted by researchers at the personal genomics company 23andMe, based in Mountain View, California.
Critics were particularly perturbed by the genome-wide association study (GWAS) that the authors had used to identify their longevity genes: the centenarians and the controls in the study had been tested with different kinds of DNA chips, which potentially skewed the results.
"Basically anybody that does a lot of GWAS knows this [pitfall], which is why we all said it so fast," says David Goldstein, director of Duke University's Center for Human Genome Variation, who voiced his concerns to a Newsweek blogger the day the study appeared.
This critical onslaught was striking — but not exceptional. Papers are increasingly being taken apart in blogs, on Twitter and on other social media within hours rather than years, and in public, rather than at small conferences or in private conversation. In December, for example, many scientists blogged immediate criticisms of another widely publicized paper2 — this one heralding bacteria that the authors claimed use arsenic rather than phosphorus in their DNA backbone.
A chorus of disapproval
To many researchers, such rapid response is all to the good, because it weeds out sloppy work faster. "When some of these things sit around in the scientific literature for a long time, they can do damage: they can influence what people work on, they can influence whole fields," says Goldstein. This was avoided in the case of the longevity-gene paper, he says. One week after its publication, the authors released a statement saying, in part, "We have been made aware that there is a technical error in the lab test used … [and] are now closely re-examining the analysis." Then in November, Science issued an 'Expression of Concern' about the paper3, in essence questioning the validity of its results.
When asked for a comment by Nature, the lead investigator on the paper, Paola Sebastiani, a biostatistician at Boston University in Massachusetts, said only that she and her co-authors "feel it is premature for us to talk about our experience because this is still an ongoing issue".
For many researchers, the pace and tone of this online review can be intimidating — and can sometimes feel like an attack. How are authors supposed to respond to critiques coming from all directions? Should they even respond at all? Or should they confine their replies to the conventional, more deliberative realm of conferences and journals? "The speed of communication is ahead of the sheer time needed to think and get in the lab and work," said Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a postdoctoral fellow at the NASA Astrobiology Institute in Mountain View, California, and the lead author on the arsenic paper. Aptly enough, she circulated that comment as a tweet on Twitter, which is used by many scientists to call attention to longer articles and blog posts.
To bring some order to this chaos, it looks as though a new set of cultural norms will be needed, along with an online infrastructure to support them. The idea of open, online peer review is hardly new. Since Internet usage began to swell in the 1990s, enthusiasts have been arguing that online commenting could and should replace the traditional process of pre-publication peer review that journals carry out to decide whether a paper is worth publishing.
"It makes much more sense in fact to publish everything and filter after the fact," says Cameron Neylon, a senior scientist at the Science & Technology Facilities Council, a UK funding body.
In some fields, notably mathematics and physics, this sort of public discourse on a paper has long been the norm, both before and after publication. Most researchers in those fields have been depositing their draft papers in the preprint server arXiv.org for two decades. And when blogging became popular around the turn of the millennium, they were quick to start debating their research in that form.
Scientists in other fields seem less willing to get involved in pre-publication discussion. Biologists, in particular, are notoriously reluctant to publicly discuss their own work or comment on the work of others for fear of being scooped by competitors or of offending future reviewers of their own work. Adding to the disincentive is the knowledge that tenure committees and funding agencies do not explicitly reward online activity.
作者:admin@医学,生命科学 2011-01-24 00:14