Thursday, August 19, 2010

O'Neil-Dunne of UVM keeping it real on tree canopy mapping: maps are about maps

Letters from the SAL: Is the Peer Reviewed Literature the Best Place to Publish?

This New York Times article resurrected a question that pops up in my head every time I read a peer reviewed article in a remote sensing journal that involves some type of  land cover mapping: is this really the best medium for publishing this work?
The typical journal article with have an introduction, methods, results, and discussion.  There will be 1-2 screen captures of the final product, most likely in black and white, and then an accuracy assessment.  The screen captures are typically of a relatively small area, and often at a scale not suitable for assessing the quality of the data.  The accuracy assessment is of course done by the very people who did the analysis, which is hardly an independent assessment.  The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that the slow pace of peer review means that an article published today is likely the result of techniques applied 2, 3, or more years ago.  In the rapidly evolving remote sensing field this is a lifetime.  There are strong arguments for the peer review process, but if the reviewer does not have access to the end product they are simply reviewing a story about the data.

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