It was an interesting experiment that started on June, 1 in the Nature office: a first trial of of open peer review. Of the 10,000 papers received every year, 6,000 are immediately rejected and eventually 700 published after peer review. The result of the trial, however, is disappointing:
We sent out a total of 1,369 papers for review during the trial period. The authors of 71 (or 5%) of these agreed to their papers being displayed for open comment. Of the displayed papers, 33 received no comments, while 38 (54%) received a total of 92 technical comments.
The trial provoked some web traffic with approx. 800 page views/day. Welcome back to the altruism thread, the discussion may be followed at their blog, yea, yea.
No, this essay will not deal with altruism in science but with the science of altruism. There are two new papers from the Fehr group (one in Science on Nov, 3 about diminished reciprocal fairness after magnetic stimulation of the right prefrontal cortex and a second in Nature on Aug, 24 about altruism in two indigenous groups in Papua New Guinea). I was, however, much more impressed by their recent review of human altruism.
Cooperation between genetically unrelated groups is a typical human behaviour (otherwise seen only in ants, bees and the naked mole rat) where there seems a strong reciprocity between selfishness and altruism. Cooperation is rarely stable and may deteriorate under worse conditions. Altruistic rewarding and reputation seeking seem to be the most powerful determinants of future donors’ behaviour where effects of punishing behaviour seem to be underestimated: Cooperation in larger group continues only if punishment of defectors and non-punishers is possible.