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Academia.edu acquires Plasmyd to let peers review papers

The online repository of academic research papers is building in a new variant of the ages-old peer-review process to scrutinize academic work.

Plasmyd offers an online peer-review mechanism to let researchers share opinions on each others' academic papers.
Plasmyd offers an online peer-review tool to let researchers share opinions on each others' academic papers.
screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Apparently basing a research paper's merit on its author's reputation and Facebook-esque social network cues wasn't enough for Academia.edu.

On Wednesday, the startup announced it's acquired Plasmyd, a company that will add the more traditional peer review process to Academia.edu's business offering free online research papers. Terms of the deal weren't announced, but Plasmyd co-founders Adnan Akil and Kevin Wu are joining Academia.edu.

Peer review is an old tradition for those publishing papers in academic journals. With it, researchers in the same field as an author scrutinize a paper to find problems before publication. Academia.edu publishes preprints -- papers that haven't been formally peer-reviewed or accepted for publication -- and relies on cues such as citations and follower influence to gauge authors' reputations. Academia.edu Chief Executive Richard Price indicated that peer review shouldn't be abandoned, though, but instead renovated for the online era.

"We need to expand peer review so there are vastly more scientists peer reviewing papers, sharing their thoughts and comments on each other's work," Price said in a statement. "Open science is not just about open access to papers, it's about opening up the whole scientific process."

With Plasymd's approach, not all peer reviewers are created equal. Algorithms works by evaluating the clout of peer reviewers and gives their opinions more weighting.

"The goal is to build a system that incentivises the top scientists to share their peer reviews and thoughts on papers that they are reading," Akil said in a statement. "Academia was the perfect home for us. They've built the largest online community of scientists while we've been working on building the next generation tools of peer review."