Peer Review at RIO: Part 1

In this post we shall explain our much anticipated use of pre-submission peer-review.
This is not the only model of peer-review we will operate. Next week we will explain our post-publication peer-review.

You may be asking yourself – how can peer-review happen before submission?

This is a good question. Almost all traditional journals only arrange for peer-review to happen after submission. Manuscript review, immediately prior to submission can take place at RIO because of our unique authoring platform: ARPHA.

We think this will fit-in well with the normal research practices of many, as researchers often send off manuscripts to colleagues immediately prior to submission for checking with ‘a fresh pair of eyes’ anyway. All RIO seeks to do is to make this natural process more formal and transparent. Indeed, why spend so much precious time on pre-publication review and revisions, when this work could be done in an user-friendly online collaboration environment still during the authoring process?

The concept is this:

  • The author(s) write or load their documents in our what-you-see-is-what-you-get writing tool: ARPHA
  • When they think it is ready, they ask one or more colleagues to read the work and give a basic assessment of whether it is fit-to-publish in it’s current form. ARPHA provides Google Docs-like functionality for making inline comments and highlighting as well as ‘general’ comments.
  • This colleague (the pre-submission reviewer), logs into ARPHA from their own account, reads the work on ARPHA, and fills out a simple form declaring the work worthy of being made public to the world in RIO.
  • Final review statement and the name of the colleague is made public alongside the work after publication.

RIO will not publish outputs that it thinks are pseudoscience, that have unresolved ethical issues, or are otherwise not appropriate for an academic journal. This applies even if a pre-submission reviewer thinks that the output is ‘OK’ for publication. Checks by RIO technical and subject editors are performed both before and after submission to the journal, if serious problems are found, publication may be prevented.

For clarity, we have produced a diagram of the proposed pre-submission workflow below.

pre submission workflow diagram

Outputs that must undergo pre-submission peer-review include:

Research Articles, Review Articles, Replication Studies, Methods, Case Studies, Opinion Articles, Data Papers, Questionnaires, and Software Descriptions.

Outputs for which pre-submission peer-review is optional include*:

Research Ideas, Research Proposals, PhD Project Plans, PhD Theses, Small Grant Proposals, Grant Proposals, Data Management Plans, Software Management Plans, Single-figure publications, Research Posters, Research Presentations, Conference Abstracts, Correspondence, Project Reports, Policy/Communication Briefs, and Wikipedia Articles.

Next week, we will blog about our processes for post-publication peer-review. If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the comments section, Twitter @RIOJournal, or via email.

*Even though pre-submission review is optional for a few manuscript types, the authors will be strongly encouraged to seek peer-review.

Counting days and tweets: What’s happened to RIO Journal so far?

So, here we are, counting days and Twitter impressions since Research Ideas & Outcomes (or, RIO for short) our new open access journal was officially announced on 1st September 2015. As much as we were excited to take this long-prepared and anticipated stand in the spotlight, we are still holding our breath ahead of the big event – the launch itself, scheduled for November 2015.

In the meantime, when not busy welcoming our very first subject editors, we have our ear to the ground, so that we can make sure to provide everyone with the best services and insight. The truth is, we don’t only value attention, we deeply appreciate your opinion and respect your needs and concerns.

So, here below we provide a short summary of the eventful first week of RIO Journal:

It all started on 1st September on Twitter. Among the constantly growing list of our first followers, there were a lot of welcoming retweets, sounding just as excited as we were:

Then, the time came for the world media to give its verdict:

This week sees the birth of a new type of scientific journal, one that will publish not only study results and data, but also research ideas and proposals. It’s called Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO).
/The Scientist, 3rd September/

With so many science journals already in existence, it is rare for a new title to draw attention. But researchers and publishing experts are taking notice of Research Ideas and Outcomes, or RIO, an open-access journal that launched on 1 September.
/Nature, 3rd September/

Understandably, the hottest discussion points were RIO’s initiatives:

> To present openly the whole process of the research cycle especially including research proposals
> To publish such ideas regardless of them being eventually approved or rejected for funding
> To apply a transparent, public, and open peer-review policy

Stephen Curry, a structural biologist at Imperial College London shared on Twitter that in his opinion RIO is “bringing a new sense of transparency and collaboration to research”, while he voiced his strong support for preprint publications and open feedback in his Guardian blog. “Preprints can help to refocus attention where it matters – on the work itself, not where it is published. In so doing, they have the potential to revitalize the scientific enterprise”, his column reads.

“I like the idea of getting “publishing-credit” for my research proposals and other research output. Roughly speaking for every proposal I write, I write one paper less”, points out computational chemist at the University of Copenhagen Jan Jansen on explaining why he accepted the invitation to become one of RIO’s subject editors.

At the end of the day, some of RIO’s innovations couldn’t escape being challenged by some criticisms. A librarian and known extreme critic of open access journals, Jeffrey Beall questioned the freedom given to RIO’s authors to make their own choice of reviewers.

One of the RIO’s own subject editors, Ivo Grigorov, a marine scientist at the Technical University of Denmark also raised his concerns on the matter. Yet, he and our ever growing list of editors and advisory board are sticking with us:

In his turn, Ross Mounce, a postdoc at the Natural History Museum, London and a founding editor of RIO, explained how the new open access journal seeks to improve the “immensely wasteful” traditional research process in his piece on the popular LSE Impact blog.

Ross also gave a podcast interview for Beta Pleated Chic, he spoke in detail about the whole list of innovative tools and strategies.

If you know of any other press mentions or blogs about RIO Journal, please don’t hesitate to forward them to us on Twitter @RIOJournal.