Once upon a time, scientific papers were physical things. Today, almost everything can be read online, writes Stuart Ritchie in the Guardian. But while that aspect has changed, the publishing process has not: "We still have scientific papers; we still send them off to peer reviewers; we still have editors who give the ultimate thumbs up or down as to whether a paper is published in their journal." Ritchie runs through a litany of related problems—publication bias, or the pressure to publish positive results; the tendency for researchers to dumb down their science to "tell a better story" within the confines of a paper, etc.—and he suggests it's time for things to change. He writes that it makes sense to further embrace the internet and turn papers into "mini websites," sometimes called "notebooks."
Under such a model, all related data could be attached and reviewed by anyone. Corrections could be easily made and logged, a far cry from the laborious process now required. "Sure, throwing sunlight on the whole process might reveal ambiguities or hard-to-explain contradictions in the results—but that’s how science really is," writes Ritchie. Science keeps progressing, and it's time for the publication process to do the same. "Some fields of science are already moving in the direction I’ve described here, using online notebooks instead of journals—living documents instead of living fossils," he writes. "It’s time for the rest of science to follow suit." (Read the full essay.)