There is an integrity crisis in the life sciences. Since 1990, retraction rates for peer-reviewed medical research have increased by a factor of 4 (Cohol (2007) EMBO 792-3). This crisis highlights how traditional mechanisms of peer review are straining under the ever expanding volume of research being produced.
Post-publication peer review offers a promising solution: researchers could aggregate their opinions online to create an alternative metric of integrity. A number of systems have been built to allow this kind of peer review, but none have succeeded in engaging the research community.
Our team has spent close to a year conducting research in labs on the way that papers are read and discussed, and has created an alternative system which generates significantly more traction. The system is based around figure-by-figure summaries of a paper, soliciting comments on individual figures rather than on papers as a whole.
Initial tests with this system have found extremely promising improvements in both reading time and discussion rates over competing platforms. We are seeking funding to refine the system for launch across and beyond UCSF, and to cover the costs of user engagement.
Criteria and metrics for success
As a web-based application, we will have access to a plethora of data on user behavior. We are seeking to optimize around the following metrics:
-In order to establish that we becoming a useful part of scientists’ workflows, we will seek to maximize the
number of papers viewed on our system per user per week.
-In order to establish whether we are serving as a platform for meaningful discussion, we will seek to maximize the number of comments per paper view, and the amount of response (replies and upvotes) per comment.
Approximate cost and very brief justification ($10k-max $100k)
We estimate that launching the project will require a budget of $250k in 2012. The majority of this sum goes to salaries for web development and community management staff. We are seeking $100k to supplement our other sources of funding.
Robert Judson- Completing PhD in UCSF BMS program. Focus on complex genetic networks & stem cell biology
David Jay, MBA- Consultant focusing in online community development, web developer.
India Hook-Barnard, PhD- Program Officer, National Academy of Sciences
Keith Yomamato, PhD- Vice Chancellor for Research, UCSF
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