Frequently Asked Questions
Note: the technology, workflow and policies of Review Commons are expected to evolve with time. A versioned record of this document and other guidelines is kept in the repository http://github.com/review-commons.
- What is the scope of Review Commons?
Review Commons will consider research manuscripts in the life sciences and biomedical sciences. A more detailed description of the fields covered is available in the instructions to authors. Review Commons will not consider reviews, commentaries or opinion pieces.
- Who will the reviewers be and who will select them?
An independent Managing Editor will liaise with the authors and assign experienced professional editors at EMBO Press to run a high-quality, in-depth peer-review process. The EMBO editors will only invite referees, but not assess the manuscript for their journals. Reviewers may co-review manuscripts with colleagues, eg members of their research groups.
- Will you review every manuscript submitted to Review Commons?
No. Review Commons will only review well-developed scholarly research papers that represent a significant advance for the field and provides value to a specific community. A managing editor in conjunction with an academic advisory board makes this decision independently of the selection criteria of affiliate journals.
- Can I submit my manuscript directly to Review Commons or should I post a preprint first?
We strongly encourage you to first submit a preprint that you can then submit to Review Commons. But you can also submit your manuscript directly. Note that this second route still allows subsequently to post the manuscript to bioRxiv.
- Will Review Commons screen bioRxiv to pick preprints that will be reviewed?
No. We ask authors to take the initiative to submit their preprint or their manuscript to Review Commons.
- What is the difference between Review Commons and traditional peer review?
Peer-review is usually done after journal submission. Review Commons will run the peer review process before journal submission and reviewers will be asked to provide an expert assessment of the rigor of the research and of the advance the study represents for the field.
- What is the advantage of peer-reviewing a manuscript before journal submission?
Reviewers will be asked to focus on the science rather than fit for a journal. It will, therefore, improve the objectivity of the assessment and make reviews more portable for assessment by affiliate journals with one set of referee comments. Thus, Review Commons will contribute to reducing the number of re-submission and re-review cycles.
- What is in it for authors?
Authors will be able to use a single set of referee reports to find an appropriate journal for publishing their study, without having to go through multiple rounds of fresh reviews. They will also be able to make a more informed choice of journal based on the referee reports. Finally, authors will be able to make their reviewed study public faster by posting the manuscript, reviews and response to bioRxiv.
- Will new submissions be checked for quality before sending them to reviewers?
Yes. We will check that new submissions are well-developed manuscripts (i.e. fully described materials & methods, fully-described data figures and tables, comprehensive references, rigorous introduction, results, and conclusions sections). We will also check that essential author metadata (contact and affiliation) and standard statements (eg Conflict of Interest) are provided. Review Commons will reserve the right to reject manuscripts at any point if ethical, biosecurity, or scientific integrity issues arise.
- How can authors respond to the reviewers and revise their manuscript?
_After authors receive reviews, they will be given a recommended four weeks (or more, upon request) to upload a response to the reviewers and initial revision plan to Review Commons before transferring the files to one of the affiliate journals. The Authors’ responses will be posted alongside the referee reports on the bioRxiv preprint, unless they opt out of posting the reviews. The original manuscript will be transferred unaltered to the chosen affiliate but authors can in addition upload an initial revision, for example to already address textual or presentation issues.
- Will the review be anonymous?
Yes. By default, the identity of the referees will not be communicated to the authors, unless a reviewer explicitly decides to sign her/his report, which they are welcome to do. However, reviewers must consent to have their identities disclosed to the editors of the affiliate journals.
- As an author, can I suggest or exclude reviewers?
Yes. The submission form will provide the opportunity to propose reviewers or to exclude them due to a competitive situation or conflict of interest. Exclusions will be honored.
- Who controls who sees the peer review reports?
The authors are in control: they freely decide which to partner journal to submit and whether to post a refereed preprint.
- As an author, can I select which reviews will be transferred to the affiliate journal?
No. The reviews are transferred directly through the editorial system and there is no possibility for authors to remove or modify the reviews. Authors can, however, submit a response (and an preliminary revision) before transfer.
- Will affiliate journals know the identity of the reviewers?
Yes, Review Commons will transmit the identity of the reviewers with their prior consent to the affiliate journal considering the manuscript. Affiliate journals may involve these referees in reviewing a revised manuscript.
- Will affiliate journals ask additional reviewers to evaluate my study?
In general, no. All affiliated journals have agreed to make their assessment primarily based on the Review Commons referee reports. In some cases, however, additional expert advice might be necessary, for example to cover an aspect of the study that might be of particular importance to the journal.
- Will affiliate journal know to which prior affiliates the manuscript has been submitted?
No. This is only known to Review Commons and will not be communicated to the other affiliates.
- If I disagree with the reviews, am I obliged to use them when I submit my work to one of the affiliate journals?
No. If you feel the reviews are not adequate, you can submit your manuscript directly to any journal, which will then treat the manuscript as a new submission.
- Will I have to pay an open access fee to use Review Commons?
No. Review Commons is initially free. After this first experimental phase, a financial model will be developed for long-term sustainability of the platform. Please note that already in the initial phase, some of the open-access affiliate journals will ask you to pay an Open Access Article Processing Charge for publication or they may levy page charges.
- What is the business model for Review Commons?
The project is supported by a grant to ASAPbio from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, and there is initially no cost to authors or journals. Assuming that we find that the platform improves the process of publication, we will also develop a sustainable financial plan so that the service can continue beyond this initial period.
- How will you measure the success of Review Commons?
Our goal is to increase transparency, speed, and efficiency of the review process. We will evaluate the engagement of the community by measuring the submission rate. To assess the efficiency of the process, we will measure the time from submission to publication in a journal, and, very importantly, the average number of reviewers needed per published manuscript. To measure transparency, we will monitor the fraction of authors who post their reviews and replies to bioRxiv.
- Will Review Commons have an impact factor?
No. Review Commons is not a journal and it will not ‘accept’ papers. A single average-based metric of aggregated citation rate such as the Journal Impact Factor is also not in the spirit of the platform.
- Can authors choose any number of journals within the 17 journal consortium?
Authors can choose one journal at a time for consideration and should limit the number of attempts to four submissions maximum.
- Can authors submit to journals outside the consortium with Review Commons referee reports?
Once the referee reports are posted publicly, authors may use them as they wish. However, for editors at non-affiliate journals to make use of them, they are likely to need to know the reviewers’ identities. Editors of non-affiliated journals can approach Review Commons for the name of reviewers. Review Commons will always ask reviewers for permission before forwarding their name to a journal not affiliated with the consortium.
- How will affiliate journals handle transferred manuscripts?
Journals have a window of time to respond with a potential offer to authors; this can include reject, accept as is, or express interest in publication with clarity on what revisions they expect the authors to complete beyond the refereed preprint (e. g. new experiments). Affiliate journals have agreed not to review the refereed preprint afresh with a new set of reviewers. But a target journal may ask for additional expert advice to arbitrate on issues raised by the referees and the authors’ response, or on suitability for the journal. The journal can also decide to send a revised manuscript back to the original referees of the platform or, in rare cases, additional experts.
- How can journals become affiliates?
During the trial period, the number of journal affiliates will be limited so as to ensure that technology and workflows provide authors and reviewers with a smooth experience. Scaling up the sytems will have impact on the workflow, business model and infrastructure. We welcome further discussions with potentially interested journals and encourage them to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Will double blind peer review be supported?
The platform is not currently designed to support double-blind review.