posted on Fri, Aug 27 '21 under tags: freedom, science

Wellcome “Open” Research has a peculiar commenting policy. I wrote to their editor about how it is exclusionary. This is a copy of that email.

——– Forwarded Message ——–

Subject: Your publishing policy on comments is exclusionary

Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2021 18:14:48 +0530

To: editorial@wellcomeopenresearch.org

Dear Editorial team of Wellcome Open Research,

I’ve come to notice in your commenting policy this particular paragraph:

“While peer reviewers are formally invited, we encourage unsolicited open scientific discussion on all articles. Such contributions are published through our Comment system. To ensure that comments contribute to, and focus on, the scholarly debate, we usually only allow comments from readers who have a formal affiliation with a research institution, or other organisation clearly related to Wellcome Open Research’s scope. Alternatively, we may also allow comments from readers who have demonstrable expertise in a relevant area of research. Consistent with our commitment to full transparency, the reader’s full name and affiliation appear on their public comment.”

I want to make two points about this.

1. It is illogical. You make the assumption that only readers who have demonstrable expertise in relevant area of research can make comments that contribute to, and focus on, the scholarly debate.

Why is that illogical? Because while it is true that those who hold demonstrable expertise in a relevant area of research can make comments that contribute to and focus on a scholarly debate, it is wrong to say that ONLY such people can make such comments.

Neither is it true that people who hold demonstrable expertise in an area of research will always make scholarly comments.

Maybe you didn’t mean it that way. But, it is my duty to point it out that what you wish to promote - scholarly debate - and the process you have put in place to achieve it - letting only “experts” comment - are two separate things.

2. It is exclusionary. Science is already exclusionary. The scientific publication process is exclusionary. The institutes of science are out of reach for a huge proportion of population. Notions of “expertise” and “merit” are oppressive to different ways of doing science.

Here is a recent editorial by someone you might consider an “expert” validating this point: https://gh.bmj.com/content/6/8/e006601

Your notion of pinning scholarly debate as a function of affiliation/expertise would not have been surprising to me had it not been for your otherwise radical and progressive positions on publication.

Maybe, you could reconsider the comments policy too, putting it more in line with how you want science to be more constructive, creative, and democratic as opposed to the ivory tower that it currently occupies.

Akshay

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