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Open Access

Beyond open access: open discourse, the next great equalizer


Received: 19 June 2006

Accepted: 30 August 2006

Published: 30 August 2006

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Archived Comments

  1. Peer Review, Open Peer Commentary, and Open Opining

    1 September 2006

    Stevan Harnad, U. Quebec a Montreal & U. Southampton

    I yield to no one in my bullishness about "scholarly skywriting" and open peer commentary. But there is a world of difference between peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed content, and between peer comments and public opining. Just look at the public press, chat shows, and the large portion of Internet chat-space that is just a global graffiti board for trivial pursuit: Caveat emptor.

    Behavioral and Brain Sciences: a journal of Open Peer Commentary

    Inaugural Editorial(1978)

    Valedictory Editorial (2002)

    Harnad, S. (1984) Commentaries, opinions and the growth of scientific knowledge. American Psychologist 39 1497 - 1498.

    Harnad, Stevan (1990) Scholarly Skywriting and the Prepublication Continuum of Scientific Inquiry. Psychological Science 1: 342 - 343 (reprinted in Current Contents 45: 9-13, November 11 1991).

    Harnad, S. (1995) Interactive Cognition: Exploring the Potential of Electronic Quote/Commenting, in Gorayska, B. and Mey, J. L., Eds. , pp. 397-414. Elsevier.

    Harnad, S. (1997) Learned Inquiry and the Net: The Role of Peer Review, Peer Commentary and Copyright. Learned Publishing 11(4) pp. 283-292.

    Harnad, S. (2003) Back to the Oral Tradition Through Skywriting at the Speed of Thought. Interdisciplines.

    Competing interests


  2. Open Discourse without peer review

    1 September 2006

    Andrew Dayton, CBER/FDA

    Open Discourse in the absence of peer review doesn't mean abandoning judgment. After all, when we sit at the bar at Cold Spring Harbor, do we need an editor to tell us whether what we say is speakable (even unattributed rumors)? If Open Discourse degenerates to the level of Jerry Springer and Oprah, then it's our own fault. As thinking scientists we should be able to distinguish sense from nonsense. If a discussion clearly is off course, we should know enough to ignore it or accept the responsibility of correcting it. Therein lies the challenge. Some public forums are nonsense. Some are valuable. We can choose which we want to follow and support and which we want to abandon. If enough of us choose the responsible path, we'll create something of tremendous value. As for caveat emptor, that caution unfortunately applies to the peer reviewed literature as well.

    Competing interests


  3. the importance of raw data

    8 September 2006

    Jean-Claude Bradley, Drexel University

    I absolutely agree with Andrew. The reader should be able to judge the likely quality of a document, just as reviewers do when they review submissions. If I am looking to make a compound, the source of the procedure is irrelevant. The description of the procedure, links to prior work and proof of a successful synthesis by spectral characterization is all that matters. As we move toward a more heterogeneous publication environment, it becomes more and more important to provide links to raw experimental data. A resource like could provide a convenient mechanism to bring at least some of the raw data out in the open from the author to clarify points of contention.

    Competing interests


  4. The submission of raw data to

    9 September 2006

    Jeffrey Ellis,

    Thank you to Dr. Bradley, Dr. Harnad and Dr. Dayton for your comments and perspective.

    Regarding Dr. Bradley's comment:

    "A resource like could provide a convenient mechanism to bring at least some of the raw data out in the open from the author to clarify points of contention." would be honored to host any supplemental contributions by authors to their publications. These could include raw data sets, or any other content. We hope that these contributions will lead to clarifications of work published, and help to shape the structure of future research in productive ways.

    In regard to Dr. Harnad's comments, we thank you and understand your perspective and concerns. We have the same view as that published in Dr. Dayton's reply "Open Discourse without peer review". In addition, though comments posted are not peer reviewed prior to publication, they are subject to peer review post publication by the community.

    We welcome any and all feedback, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

    Competing interests

    Founder of

  5. Not only debate - but also inquiry

    30 October 2006

    Zbigniew Lukasiak, freelancer

    I am not a researcher but in my work I sometimes use research articles as support of my points. I liked the ideas presented in this article and I'd like to add one more that I think would be of value to people like me. The article talks about enabling the general public to debate the ready-made research, but what would be even more important to practitioners like me would be the possibility to ask questions relevant to my work and possibly get links to present knowlege or inspire someone to start research aimed at answering them.

    Competing interests


Authors’ Affiliations

Laboratory of Molecular Virology, Division of Emerging and Transfusion Transmitted Diseases, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, FDA, HFM 315 FDA/CBER, Rockville, USA