A post on Academic Productivity introduces an interesting point of view for looking at the scientific aspects related to the peer review of online scientific and/or academic resources. The authors underline how social reference management tools – software fast-growing in number and popularity like Del.icio.us, CiteULike or Connotea – can help in doing evaluations on papers published and tagged on the web.
As they say there are at least 4 aspects to note about the so called soft peer review:
- the production of semantic metadata at low costs and by means of collaborative and wide-spreading attribution of tags: as semantics is in the users (Clay Shirky dixit), “Collaboratively produced tags can be used to extract similarity patterns or for automatic clustering. In the case of academic literature, tags can provide extensive lists of keywords for scientific papers, often more accurate and descriptive than those originally added by the author.”
- the popularity – meant to be used also in addition to more classical and accepted means of getting the impact of an article (see citation counts) – because “Looking at how many users bookmarked an item in their personal reference library can provide a reliable measure of the popularity of that item within a given community.”
- the hotness that “can be described as an indicator of short-term popularity, a useful measure to identify emerging trends within specific communities.”
- and the collaborative annotation as “Users can add reviews to items they bookmark, thus producing lists of collaborative annotations. This is interesting because adding annotations is something individual users naturally do when bookmarking references in their library.”
I was really impressed by this link between social and collaborative tools, that help us categorizing informations online, and the academic standardized evaluation tools like peer review or impact factor: as it gets more and more difficult for academics to hard peer review the huge amount of (scientific) information produced everyday, the first ones seem likely to become a promising way non to substitute but to couple with the latter in getting a soft, quick and easy review of the most online scientific resources.