AltInst: Light Refereeing

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Fri Aug 07 1998 - 18:34:38 PDT

>From a paper by John McCarthy, at

"On-line publication will be entirely viable even if it
imitates print publication in its refereeing style, but
here is a proposalthat might make it better. I call it
light refereeing, and it has a distinguished precedent.
I was curious how the unknown Einstein, an employee of
the Swiss patent office, got four papers into Annalen
der Physik the world's leading physics journal, in the
year 1905 and wondered how long the refereeing process
took. These papers revolutionized physics, but how
could the editor know that in advance?

It seems that Einstein was not quite an unknown, having
published before in Annalen der Physik. That journal's
custom was that the first paper submitted by an author
would be carefully examined, and Einstein's first paper
had been reviewed by MaxPlanck. Once the author had been
blessed, his papers would be published on receipt, and
this is was the case with Einstein's four 1905 papers.
Alas, we don't get to see a referee's report on the first
paper about the theory of relativity.

Returning to the present, we can imagine the following
light refereeing system. An author's first paper is
refereed in the standard way. Once an author is blessed
his papers are lightly refereed. Namely, they are
immediately scheduled for publication after three months,
but are sent to a referee who is asked to suggest
improvements in style or content. If the referee does not
ch a system will be more prompt than present journal
publication and may be preferable to the growing custom
of using preprint servers. Of course, the editor could
decide that a particular paper required more or less
refereeing than the standard light refereeing."

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-2627

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Received on Sat Aug 8 01:53:41 1998

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