Another interesting read from our friends at Nanowerk (these "spotlight" features are very good and will really get your brain going).  This time around the topic addresses the nanotechnology data gap and the role peer-reviewed journals play.

Author Michael Berger points out the problems with the length of time in publishing the results of scientific studies in relation to the freshness of the data.  Without repeating his well written piece, there are some particularly interesting points, such as:

  • A peer-reviewed paper takes almost 2 years to publish once the scientific research is completed;
  • In a fast-growing field like nanotechnology, the knowledge contained within the field doubles roughly every five years (however, he does not define what "knowledge" means in this context)

He’s got some other good points and examples, but I don’t want to spoil the ending for you.

This raises the fairly obvious problem that the published results of research may very well be outdated and stale by the time the research paper is in circulation.  It is an interesting read, and one I recommend (and it’ll only take about 10 minutes). 

Clearly, the delay from research to publication is a problem.  As we’ve talked about here before, the "data gap" that exists is one of, if not the, major barrier to nanotechnology regulation and addressing the health and safety issues that are at the front of everyone’s mind.  But how to get the fast-paced information out faster?  One of Mr. Berger’s suggestions is a wiki, which we’ve talked about before and which ICON is proposing be used for "good practices" development.  Maybe this format will work for peer-reviewed research as well (if any researchers out there are reading this, I’d be curious to know your thoughts).

Regardless, Mr. Berger and Nanowerk are correct: something has got to give between the slow pace of publication and the fast pace of the sector.  What good is information that’s two years old and new information has been revealed in the interim?  Is there room to improve the system, or is the process of peer-reviewing the best we have?  Something to think on for a while.