Launching a new venture with a debate on peer review
11th Jun 2014
The big day has arrived: this evening about 60 people will gather in Kings Cross, London, to launch my new company, Cofactor. Hopefully lots more will follow along online using the hashtag #PeerRevFactors, because this will not just be a launch, it will also be an evening of short talks and discussion about peer review. The theme is ‘What difference will changes in peer review make to authors and journals?’ and we have four great speakers:
- Giulia De Rossi, a PhD student who has published in several conventional journals and also F1000Research
- Maria Kowlaczuk, Deputy Biology Editor at BioMed Central
- Damian Pattinson, Editorial Director of PLOS ONE
- Alf Eaton, developer for PeerJ
I will also give a brief introduction to Cofactor and to the theme, and after the talks the audience of science, publishing and communications people will join in to discuss what they’ve heard. The talks will start at about 19:00 BST. I will post a summary of the event here afterwards, including a Storify of the tweets.
What is Cofactor?
Regular readers of this blog will know that I know quite a lot about journals. For a while I have been looking for the best way in which I can use this knowledge to help researchers. The solution is a company offering editorial help, consultancy and workshops to researchers. It consists of me and a growing team of freelance editors and editorial consultants covering a wide area of science.
Having these expert editors to call on means that Cofactor can check and improve many more research papers than I could on my own. At the same time, clients still benefit from my expertise on every paper, as I check all the editing done by my freelancers. My time will also (hopefully!) be freed up to offer more specialised consultancy and to give workshops to groups of researchers.
I also hope to be able to get involved in more projects around scientific publishing, open science and so on. The most popular posts on this blog by far have been the surveys of journals with respect to their speed (of review and publication), impact metrics and charges (for open access and other things), so I will be doing updated surveys on these and other features of journals before long. One project that is already under way is an innovative Journal Selector tool, which will help researchers to choose a journal based on these kinds of factors.
Cofactor is offering several kinds of help with scientific papers: substantive editing, a quick check called the Cofactor Summary and an abstract check. We can also help researchers choose a journal, negotiate the peer review process or decide on a publishing strategy. And our workshops can help junior or more experienced researchers to understand the big changes in scientific publishing and how these affect them.
Do get in touch for help with publishing your papers, to book a workshop, or to talk about working for Cofactor.
What difference will changes in peer review make?
So, tonight’s theme is new forms of peer review and what difference they are making already and will make in the future.
What kinds of peer review are we talking about?
- Open peer review
- Post-publication peer review
- Peer review that is independent of journals
- Crowdsourced peer review
- Innovative review processes involving discussion between reviewers and authors
Another relatively new kind of peer review is that practised by journals such as PLOS ONE and PeerJ (‘megajournals‘), in which reviewers are asked to comment only on whether the science is sound and not whether the conclusions are interesting or significant.
My take is that anyone who writes scientific papers should start rethinking how they do this in the light of these changes. If your paper is reviewed in the open, everyone will be able to see the comments of the reviewers, and often the original submitted version too. So you can’t rely on reviewers or journal staff to quietly correct any errors. Unless you ensure errors are corrected before submission, they will be publicly visible when the paper is published.
If you think you can escape this public scrutiny by avoiding journals that have open review, think again. Services such as PubMed Commons and PubPeer are gaining in popularity, and papers that are seen to have major problems are being discussed at length in these and other forums.
So your best defence against criticism of your paper online is to ensure that it has no major errors when you first submit it to a journal. And the best way to do that is to get it checked by a professional editor before submission, someone with experience of editing presubmission journal papers and who knows the kinds of errors to look out for. And guess what: Cofactor has editors like this ready and waiting to check your paper!
Let’s get talking
So please do join the discussion today using the hashtag #PeerRevFactors, or in the comments here, and tell us what you think the effect of these new kinds of peer review will be. Have you commented on someone else’s paper or written a published review (I have)? Have you experienced open review or had comments on your paper after publication, and how did you feel about that? Have you changed the way you prepare your papers?