A new open-source medical journal has been launched

The Victorian model is passing, the rise of Internet centric open-source journals is here, as an example here is the latest.

Stanford neurosurgeon John Adler, MD, has launched Curēus, a new open-source medical journal that leverages crowdsourcing to make scientific research more readily available to the general public.

Leveraging the power of an online, crowd-sourced community platform (readers can rate material based on the article’s quality), Curēus promotes medical research by offering tools that better serve and highlight the people who create it, resulting in better research, faster publication and easier access for everyone, according to the Curēus website.

“We make it easier and faster to publish your work — it’s always free and you retain the copyright. What’s more, the Curēus platform is designed to provide a place for physicians to build their digital CV anchored with their posters and papers.”

Curēus joins the ranks of a growing number of open-access journals including PLoS, which was founded a decade ago by UC Berkeley and Stanford scientists. Peter Binfield, formerPLoS One editor and co-founder of PeerJ, discussed how open-access publishing can accelerate scientific research in this past Medicine X blog entry.

OK, now the skeptical bit … this is not the traditional peer-review process as we know it, folks who are not specialists get to vote, it means that stuff that might not normally bubble to the top now can. Well OK, it is in one sense peer-review, but my immediate questions are …

  • What exactly will prevent pseudo-scientific gibberish from getting published and then getting voted up by kooks?

Exactly how does their process work, well here is here is how they describe it all in their FAQ

Do I have to give Curēus the copyright to my paper?

No. All papers, posters and other materials published on Curēus are licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution license.

How much does it cost to publish on Curēus?

Nothing. Cureus is committed to a free publishing model.

How much does it cost to read articles on Curēus?

Nothing. Science should not be locked behind a paywall.

What is the SIQ™ (Scholarly Impact Quotient)?

At Curēus, every published paper is scored by a broad cross-section of users. Unlike traditional medical journals, the fate of a scholarly paper is no longer determined by one or two individuals; literally thousands of interested readers and professional colleagues review and rate published articles. Indeed, most of the reviewers have backgrounds in the same subspecialty that is the topic of the paper. Each article accumulates a proprietary score, which we refer to as a “Scholarly Impact Quotient” (SIQ™). The SIQ™ is an evolving, yet enduring reflection of a paper’s true scientific impact as judged by the medical community at large. Although non-experts can rate papers, the scholarly impact calculations place special emphasis on areas of specialization and the peer reviewed publication record of scoring experts.

How Can I Improve My SIQ™ Score?

Want to improve the SIQ score of your paper? Given that SIQ™ is a predictive measure of scientific quality, the best way to increase it is:

  • Write a highly readable paper communicating good quality scientific findings
  • Tell your friends, colleagues and advisors to review it on Curēus!

Remember, the focus here is on scientific discovery, so no playing the system to raise SIQ.

What types of papers are most appropriate for Curēus?

We designed Curēus specifically for medical papers requiring scholarly peer review. In a world of sophisticated search you can be confident that medical colleagues, fellow researchers and patients can now find and access your paper, no matter how specialized your paper topic might be.

So is this going to work? Time reports an example of things going wrong. Curēus published a paper that all other journals rejected due to concerns. The controversy concerns the nature of clinical trials in China, and the process of patient consent that they engender. It caused many medical journals to shy away from publishing papers for such studies, but Curēus did. So what did they say when challenged about this …

Curēus does not look at its role in the journal process as one of a gatekeeper. Except for cases of fraud or clear malfeasance, we believe all ideas ought to have their day in the public conversation. The wisdom of the many has been proven statistically more accurate than the opinion of a select few…no matter how learned and judicious they may be. For this reason, Curēus was happy to publish this controversial paper and let the community begin a dialog,” said Tobin Arthur, President, Curēus.

It is true of course that peer-review is not fool proof, but rather is a course filter and is not in any way the definitive guardian of scientific “truth”, and that after publication a conversation still needs to happen within the community, but in a world where we are awash with pseudo-scientific gibberish it is darn useful to have journals that have already filtered all that out. And yet, will the crowd sourcing model work just as well in that respect? Perhaps … well lets see.

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