Nature has a nice wee article (no subscription required to read this one, FTW!) on the state of what one might call "informal" peer review - the challenges and questions to published works that come from blogs and tweets and the like.
For those of us who have been talking about the changes needed in the whole infrastructure and culture of science discourse (particularly the lock publishers have on research papers), this Nature article holds no surprises. Indeed, it comes off making some scientists seem a bit whiny.
The article points to some recent events where scientists have been skewered online for papers or claims made. This reminds me of the early days of blogging when folks were trying hard to control the message and were freaking out when anyone said anything.
The paper does have some great examples and quotes though. For example, David Goldstein, from Duke's Center for Human Genome Variation, is quoted saying, "if the work is solid, it hold up over time". And the efforts by PLoS with comments on papers, how arXiv.org works, and ratings from F1000 are good to show to those who are probably reading the article to figure out how to survive the blogosphere.
My favorite comment by the author, though, is:
One solution may lie in new ways of capturing, organizing and measuring all these scattered inputs, so that they end up making a coherent contribution to science instead of just fading back into the blogosphere.
I've been harping on this for a while and still think there's an opportunity to create a solution like this. I think there is a lot of good thinking, plenty of examples in other industries, and folks are doing parts of this solution, such as trying to think of other ways to change how we calculate the impact of a paper (à la Technorati or through real-time stats), author ID systems, or ways to turn the science paper into the social object. The article also mentions Jason Priem's work on alternate paper metrics (alt-metrics).
It feels like 2004 all over again as another industry discovers the power of devolving the power back to the masses. And the Web was initially designed by scientists, for scientist - what's there to fear?
UPDATE 28jan11: Related to this topic, Zachary Knight has an incisive commentary on how all this was protrayed.
Image from Mike Babcock