The peer-review process under review with SciRev

SciRevI am probably not going to surprise you much by saying that the peer-review process of research articles could be improved. As I see it, peer-review should be an opportunity for researchers to improve their work. It should help detect flaws in the methodologies used and advise on how to improve the manuscript itself. But sadly, for many, peer-review feels like an unproductive waste of time, with sometimes endless waiting periods when the manuscript is in the hands of editors or slow reviewers. Even more frustrating is when the feedback consists of minimalistic reviews that bring little to the work. But things are slowly changing. Many journals now advertise their quick turn arounds and their network of competent and responsive reviewers. But with thousands of research journals in activity, it can be hard for researchers to know which journal is doing a good job at it and which are not.

SciRev is a platform that allows researchers to publish reviews of their experience with the peer-review process of specific journals. Facts including: the duration of the first review round, total handling time, number of reviewers, quality of the reviews, and an overall rating are displayed. A very useful “motivation” section also allows users to explain a bit about their experience with the journal. This usually gives interesting insights on the peer-review process. SciRev also allows you to compare several journal side by side.

Review of journals by users.

Review of journals by users.

The reviews seemed to be well balanced between the positive and the more negative. SciRev also gathers very valuable data that could help grasp the problems in the publishing sector. Based on the user data, SciRev also provides interesting statistics about the review process within various scientific fields (see below).

Rejection time and duration of the first round of review averaged for all scientific fields

This initiative, along with others that help researchers choose the right journals to publish in, will likely play a role in improving the publishing system. Indeed, the cost supported by universities associated with publication and with subscription to journals, should come with a matching service. For the price, we should expect services such as open access, innovative ways of communicating the research, and an efficient peer review process. Such journal-rating platforms could become key to identifying the journal that are ahead of the game.

Publons set to revolutionize peer review in physics

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 7.46.35 PMPublons is another great alternative or complement to the traditional peer review process. Like others, this service is an answer to the slow and rather opaque peer-review process, in which the fate of a manuscript is to the mercy of an anonymous pair of experts. The idea is that publishing research results should not be the limiting step. Papers should be published, then reviewed and commented-on by the readers. This sort of system would allow researchers to have a direct, rapid and interactive feedback on their work.

Andrew Preston and Daniel Johnston, described in their founding article that publon are facetious particle that is to academic research what an electron is to charge. Peter Koveski first described them as “[…] the elementary particle of scientific publication. It has long been known that publons are mutually repulsive. The chances of finding more than one publon in a paper are negligible. Even more intriguing is the apparent ability of the same publon to manifest itself at widely separated instants in time. One reason why this has not emerged until now seems to be that a publon can manifest itself with different words and terminology … defeating observations with even the most powerful database scanners.”

As you might have guessed, Publons is focused on physics manuscripts. It allows researchers to comment and review paper published on the pre-print repository arXiv and a list of top physics journals (Applied physics letters, Nature, PRL…).

Users can review, discuss and rate papers, and can also create a profile page gathering their contributions as well as their own publications. Once more, Publons’ success will largely depend on the size of the community that it can attract. So, have a look and share the word!

The tool was added to the list of Online Tools for Researchers


Find, organize and discuss papers with Journal Lab

JournalLab_LogoJournal Lab popped-up on my radar this week. In a way, Journal Lab is similar to PubPeer since it allows users to post comment on research papers and start a discussion.

But Journal Lab adds a little twist to that by also enabling users to comment on specific figures. In the case of open access journal such as PloS, the figures are displayed along with the “reactions” and comments from readers. This might help start more targeted and clearer discussions.

Comment on article and article figures.

Comment on article and article figures.

Journal Lab goes beyond post-publishing reviewing and discussion by offering a “paper collections” functionality along with a convenient alert service. Journal Lab also introduces the concept of virtual journal club. With virtual journal clubs such as “RNA and Epigenetics” or “Active on PloS”, an exciting new paper is selected every week and opened for discussion.

Build a article collection and setup alerts.

Build a article collection and setup alerts.

Journal Lab was co-founded by UCSF graduate Robert Judson and social media entrepreneur David Jay in 2011. Find a recent interview by the UCSF student news paper here.

Peer reviews of your life science research products with BenchWise

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 6.53.13 PMFellow postdocs and graduate student of Standford have put together an interesting online tool. It started by the ascertainment that a lot of scientist are tired of knowing nothing about the quality of products before buying and testing them. This applies in particular to antibodies, used in mainly bio-related fields to detect specific parts of proteins, sugars or lipids. Antibodies are known to not always “work” for certain applications, and for reasons often unknown. Testing by trial and error, by purchasing similar antibodies from various suppliers is the only way to go. That’s where BenchWise kicks in.

BenchWise is platform that help you find peer reviews of life science research products, mainly antibodies for now. The goal it to help scientists find the right tools fast. For now the site has a list of hundred of antibodies, targeting different antigens and produced by various manufacturers  The users can give feedback for specific antibodies, for example explain if it works properly for certain application (wester blots vs immunofluorescence). Each item can also be discussed.

This is addressing a clear gap in the kind of information that is available to scientists. It is extremely easy to get reviews of the latest iphone, but so much more difficult to get a real idea of the quality and properties of the “for science only” reagents. I hope this will catches on and help save many tax-payer dollars.

Rubriq tells you what your manuscript is worth.

rubriq-logoPublishing a paper can be a long, tedious and ultimately very frustrating process. Publishers can take weeks if not months to get back to you, to eventualy find out that your work does not fit the journal’s scope or is not quite as polished as it should be to be accepted. The work done before the submission such as optimizing the manuscript’s quality and selecting the right journal is key to speed up publication. There is clearly a need for tools and service like Edanz’s journal advisor to help in the process.

Rubriq, launched in beta phase last week, goes a step further. Rubriq offers a rigorous peer-review service for your biological and medical sciences-related manuscript before their submission to publishers. With the help of peer-scientists, they will judge the manuscript’s quality and check for issues such as plagiarism, conflicts of interest and ethical issues. The paper is then attributed a scorecard that can be used as a pre-publishing metric of quality.

The service is still in the beta phase, with a progressive release of the different services over the course of 2013. As of today, Rubriq accepts manuscripts in the field of immunology, cancer biology, and microbiology and offer scorecard completed by three reviewers in two weeks for $500. The full set of service is expected to go live in March 2013.

I like this initiative. It helps streamline a the pre-submission review of manuscripts, a process that often already exists, but is slow and not always very honest. It help authors get published and should help science get communicated better and more efficiently. One aspect I appreciate in particular is that the scientists reviewing the manuscripts through Rubriq are compensated for their time and effort. This is contrast to the volunteering reviewing work currently done by researchers that directly benefit for-profit publishers. Rubriq will also be an energetic partner for the open access community thinking about how to improve the peer-reviewing process.

Rubriq was founded by entrepreneur Shashi Mudunuri and Keith Collier. Rubriq is a sister company of American Journal Experts which offer related services such manuscript editing and preparation.