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Community Comments and Peer Review: A preprint commenting pilot at PLOS 

 

Researchers have told us that posting manuscripts as preprints before—or at the same time as—submitting them to a journal is a great way to gain additional feedback from the community and improve their paper. Could the same community feedback also help improve the quality and speed of the review process at a journal? We’re launching a pilot to find out.

Preprints are a valuable collaborative tool. They allow researchers to share their work earlier and more broadly, opening opportunities for the community to provide constructive comments before the work is formally published in a journal. However, the vast majority of preprint feedback is delivered in private communications to the authors, and this input is therefore happening independently from the journal peer review process. We want to change that by encouraging public community comments on preprints and exploring how they can complement formal peer review to help authors and editors develop articles more efficiently. 

As part of our longstanding partnership with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), authors can opt-in to having PLOS post a preprint version of their manuscript to bioRxiv when they submit (nearly 4,000 preprints have been posted using this service!) Now, we’ve worked with CSHL to be alerted to the comments on those preprints posted by PLOS while they are under consideration at our journals.

Starting today, PLOS staff will be checking comments left on preprinted submissions to PLOS Computational Biology, PLOS Genetics, PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases and PLOS Pathogens using the PLOS preprint posting service. Those comments that could be relevant to the scientific evaluation of the manuscript will be made available to the editor handling the peer review of the manuscript at PLOS. At the discretion of the handling editor, useful comments can then complement the peer reviews that they have commissioned. As they are communicated to authors by the editor, these comments can then become part of the published peer review history for the article upon publication—making the entire review process completely transparent. 

We hope this trial will provide greater opportunities for research communities to participate in reviews of preprints, while promoting transparency in peer review in general. We will be checking in with authors and editors to learn more about their experiences during this pilot, and look forward to sharing the results with you. 

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