Nature just published a feature: Trial by Twitter. The piece considers the predicament of researchers who may find themselves ill-prepared to deal with a barrage of unsolicited and immediate on-line “reviews” of their published work. The author of the Nature News piece, science journalist A. Mandavilli, does a great job covering the pros and cons of Twitter “comments” on strengths and weaknesses of studies from the perspective of researchers whose work has been published by major journals.
Papers are increasingly being taken apart in blogs, on Twitter and on other social media within hours rather than years, and in public, rather than at small conferences or in private conversation.
What I’d add is this:
Openness isn’t just about criticism. It can be a positive factor in bringing to light the work of small-lab researchers whose findings contradict dogma or conflict with heavily-financed work by leaders in a field. Through twitter and blogs, non-mainstream threads of data can gain attention, traction and, with time and merit, grant support.
Scientists who publish in major journals should be able to handle the flak. If their work is correct, it’ll stand through open peer review.