Image: Preprint journal club run by PREreview beta tester Dr. Marcos Vital, Universidade Federal de Alagoas, Maceió, Brazil
PREreview (Post, Read, and Engage with preprint reviews) is a community driven project with an awesome mission to increase the adoption of preprints and train early career researchers in peer review. We are particularly excited about PREreview’s potential to accelerate the process of scholarly information sharing and to open the profession of research to underrepresented communities. PREreview will join our Sponsored Projects, Dat Project, Stencila, and ScienceFair. Read on for a deeper dive into the issues that PREreview is tackling, where the project is headed and how we’ll partner with them.
Scientific research is slowed down by the peer review process
What is peer review? Peer review is a process of critical review of a scientific scholarly work. In its most common form, it is conducted immediately prior to publication by a handful of unpaid and anonymous reviewers, often selected by the publisher. They decide the soundness of the science behind closed doors and send feedback to the authors. This process can involve waiting periods of nine months or more.
That’s right, research published today could have been in publishing limbo for months or even years.
Science is already a slow process. Scholars across disciplines have been frustrated by the way peer review is conducted for decades. On top of the slow pace of review, reviewers are selected opaquely by journal editors. This process disadvantages early career scientists not yet known to editors, women, and scientists from underrepresented communities. These groups are neither asked to contribute to peer review, nor is their work evaluated by inclusive and diverse reviewers. Finally, and paradoxically, while peer review is an important component of being a scientist, very few receive any training in it. How can we accelerate science and build a inclusive training community to change the pool of scientific reviewers?
Preprints add transparency and speed up the dissemination process, but problems remain
More than 25 years ago, physicists developed a solution to this problem: preprints. Preprints are manuscripts that are publicly posted online by the authors, becoming immediately available to the community. They are open access, meaning that anyone with an internet connection can read them, they are citable, meaning that other scientists can refer to them in other publications, and they are versioned, meaning that new updated versions can be published with unique digital object identifiers while old ones never disappear.
Backed by many funders, journals, and institutions, preprints are becoming a legitimate part of research dissemination. They accelerate the dissemination of knowledge, thereby increasing the impact and reach of scientific discovery. But we believe that preprints can do more than just accelerate science. Preprints can be leveraged to open the profession of science to underrepresented populations and democratize access to science on a global scale.
PREreview: Training, inclusive community support, and credit for reviews of preprints
Image: The PREreview team, Dr. Samantha Hindle, Dr. Monica Granados, and about to defend, almost-Dr. Daniela Saderi
PREreview was founded by a team of scientists who want to shift scientific culture to that every scientist posts, reads, and engages with preprints as standard practice. PREreview leadership team, Daniela, Monica, and Samantha, believe that scientists and the public will benefit from open sharing of scientific work and open exchange of feedback. Training to support the development of constructive and inclusive critical review skills is needed to facilitate this culture change.
PREreview today is an online platform for the collaborative writing of reviews to preprints. The PREreview team shares resources to help scientists understand and advocate for the value of preprints. PREreview also provides peer review templates to make it easier for preprint reviewers to give concise and helpful feedback to authors, and even email templates to communicate the review to them.
Beyond providing a platform for the community to grow and exchange content, the team also recognizes the lack of training in peer review. Early career researchers learn when and if their superiors involve them in the peer review process as trainees. Lack of formal training in this critical scientific skill contributes to the homogeneous demographics of today’s reviewer pool. It also leads to widely variable approaches to peer review. To address this gap, PREreview offers students and early career scientists opportunities to build skills in peer review and support to form both on-campus and online PREreview groups. Also, they are currently designing a peer review training program that will allow reviewers to gain skills, be formally recognized for their contributions, and build a diverse pool of reviewers in every scholarly field.
Their work also involves facilitating communication between scientists, particularly early career, and (open access) journal editors, with the goal of creating a fluent workflow where everyone is welcomed, trained, and valued for their effort.
What does it mean that PREreview is officially joining CS&S’ Sponsored Projects Program?
CS&S seeks to incubate open source projects in public interest technology. We work across domains, drawing our diverse community from research, science, the arts, civic tech, academia, and new media. We work to connect communities across these domains and identify barriers to project success that impact everyone. We look forward to working with PREreview on developing a sustainable project strategy, managing open source software development, and launching a wide community initiative.
When a project joins our Sponsored Projects Program, we support them with financial administration, strategic and fundraising development, open source software development staffing support when needed, and more. We are growing our programs to support project leaders and open source professionals – stay tuned! We’re always interested in talking to people who build open source technology in the public interest – reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our mailing list.