Resources for Reviewers
Recommendations for Reviewers
- Invitation to review
- Consider informing the editor that you will publish your review (e.g., “Please be aware that as a signatory of Publish Your Reviews, I plan to publish a version of my review alongside the preprint of this article. I will not reveal that the article has been submitted to this journal and will remove any recommendation for publication from the published version of my review. For more information, see publishyourreviews.org.”)
- Consider giving priority to performing peer review for journals that encourage reviewers to publish their reviews.
- If the journal is operating a double-anonymous peer review process, do not look for a preprint during the peer review process as this may compromise your ability to serve as a reviewer. Instead, publish your review after publication of the article in the journal.
- Writing your review
- Make your review collegial and constructive; adopt the FAST (Focused, Appropriate, Specific, Transparent) principles.
- Do not reveal any confidential information, such as the identity of the journal or your recommendation for publication in the journal (e.g, accept, revise, or reject).
- Ensure the feedback you provide is relevant to the preprint version of the article, not just the version submitted to the journal.
- Publishing your review
- Consider signing your review if you feel comfortable doing so, as this can promote reuse.
- Consider informing the authors about your review.
- Consider publishing your review on a platform where the authors can easily respond.
- Consider explaining why you publish your review (e.g., preface your review with text such as “As a signatory of Publish Your Reviews, I have committed to publish my peer reviews alongside the preprint version of an article. For more information, see publishyourreviews.org.”)
- Consider adding a license to your review (e.g., “This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.”)
- Preprinting your own articles
- For articles of which you are a lead author, make sure that the version submitted to a journal is also published on a preprint server.
- Include in the version of the article submitted to a journal a link to the preprint version and a statement inviting reviewers to publish their reviews (e.g., “We invite reviewers to publish their peer reviews alongside the preprint version of this article, which can be found here: [insert preprint DOI and version number]. For more information, see publishyourreviews.org. As of submission, we attest that the content of the most recent version of the preprint is the same as this version being submitted to the journal.”)
Q: Who is the legal owner of a review?
A: According to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), “in the absence of an express transfer of copyright or a written agreement between the reviewer and publisher establishing the review as a ‘work for hire’, it may be assumed that, by law, the reviewer holds copyright to their reviewer comments and thus is entitled to share the review however the reviewer deems fit.” – https://publicationethics.org/files/Who_owns_peer_reviews_discussion_document.pdf
Q: Will publication of a review violate ‘privileged information’ during peer review?
A: No, it won’t, provided that the preprint and submitted versions are identical, and reviewers refrain from including any journal-specific information in their review (e.g., identity of the journal or assessment of the extent to which the article meets the standards of the journal).
Q: Journal peer review is typically expected to be confidential. How do preprints change the equation?
A: When an author posts a preprint, they are sharing their work with the community; this public disclosure enables anyone to respond to the preprint. Therefore, reviewers should feel free to engage with the preprint as any other member of the community can.
Q: What should I include in my public review?
One important function of peer review is to make readers aware of data, analysis, or interpretation that could be improved. Nevertheless, preprint review is a recent development in most fields and it will take time for it to become integrated into the culture of a field and for researchers to get used to it. Therefore, if you are not sure whether to include a critical negative judgment in your public review or to take a more gentle approach, our advice is to err on the side of caution.
Write your review as if you had encountered the preprint independently, focusing on the research itself, not the journal to which it is submitted. Do not include the name of the journal that has invited your review, your editorial recommendation, or any other confidential information in your public review. Make sure the preprint is identical to the version of the manuscript submitted to the journal so that your comments are indeed relevant to the preprint.
Q: Where should I post my review?
A: Please see our guide on how to publish peer reviews for suggestions.
Q: Will publishing critical reviews risk repercussions for the authors?
A: Nearly all papers receive critical feedback during review; this usually strengthens the work. Nevertheless, public feedback on preprints is a relatively new phenomenon; as a result, some may be concerned that making criticism public can unfairly draw attention to the weaknesses of the paper, and as a result, damage the reputation of the authors or result in difficulties getting the paper published in a journal.
These fears may be outsized. From our limited experience with our small Crowd Preprint Review trial, we found that while the majority of authors were hesitant about participating, those who opted in and received a review found it largely useful.
As we work to build a culture in which public commenting is more normalized, we urge reviewers to keep sensitivities around public criticism in mind as they write their reviews.Collegiality is beneficial for all peer reviews, especially those posted publicly alongside preprints. ASAPbio has developed some guiding principles for constructive public preprint feedback: https://asapbio.org/fast-principles
Q: Will underrepresented authors be disproportionately harmed by public review?
A: The literature on bias in journal peer review focuses primarily on gender disparities, as discussed in Waltman et al (2022), and is complicated by the fact that many studies are observational and do not account for confounding factors such as field of study or the level of resourcing (grants or institutional support) available to authors.
Some studies have found that reviewers exhibit a preference for work from authors that share their gender or other characteristics (Helmer et al, 2017, Murray et al, 2019). While some homophily was also seen in an analysis of 145 journals across fields (Squazzoni et al, 2021), after controlling for confounding factors, that study found no systematic evidence of bias against women in reviewer selection, recommendation, or editorial decisions.
There may also be differences in the way that feedback affects authors. A survey (Silbiger & Stubler, 2019) suggests that while researchers across groups report receiving unprofessional feedback during peer review at similar rates, underrepresented groups may be more negatively affected by this feedback.
We advise reviewers to evaluate their potential biases, including when reviewing work by authors with different gender, geographical, or other characteristics, using resources such as the PREreview bias reflection guide. Furthermore, we remind reviewers that their feedback may be received differently than anticipated, and thus to bear language choices in mind and emphasize collegiality when developing their reviews.
Q: Will the Publish Your Reviews pledge work with double-anonymous peer review?
A: Reviewers who find a preprint for an article will discover authors’ identities, and should thus recuse themselves from a double-anonymous peer review process (see Preprinting FAQ). If the journal is operating a double-anonymous peer review process, do not look for a preprint during the peer review process as this may compromise your ability to serve as a reviewer. Instead, publish your review after publication of the article in the journal.
Q: I am performing peer review for a journal that has an open or transparent peer review model. Should I still publish my review?
A: Yes, we encourage you to publish your review even if you perform peer review for a journal that has an open or transparent peer review model. An increasing number of journals have adopted open or transparent peer review. These journals publish reviews alongside the articles they publish (for all published articles or only for articles for which the authors and/or the reviewers have agreed to publish the reviews). ASAPbio strongly supports the adoption of open or transparent peer review by journals.
However, journals typically publish reviews only for accepted articles, not for rejected articles. Publication of reviews for a rejected article has the advantage that the reviews can be reused by other journals, if the authors decide to submit their article to a different journal. This increases the efficiency of peer review and reduces the pressure on reviewers and editors.
Q: I found a preprint for which I would like to publish a review. However, I haven’t been invited by a journal to review the article. Can I still publish a review?
A: Yes, we encourage you to do so. ASAPbio is a strong supporter of all forms of peer review of preprints. The primary focus of the Publish Your Reviews initiative is on the publication of journal-commissioned reviews alongside preprints. Publishing journal-commissioned reviews has the advantage that it doesn’t require additional peer review efforts to be made. It therefore doesn’t increase the overall pressure on the peer review system. However, we are also strongly supportive of other forms of preprint peer review. For example, if you already write up comments from your journal club covering preprints, consider posting those publicly. You can also look for preprints for which reviews have been requested at PREreview. Regardless of the context, if you find a preprint for which you would like to publish a review, we encourage you to do so. This may be of tremendous value both for readers of the preprint and for the authors.
A: Authors can rebut or otherwise address reviews by posting a response, in many cases on the same platform where the preprint review appears. ASAPbio offers some suggestions that may help to keep the dialog constructive: https://asapbio.org/fast-principles
Sample journal policy
Publication of reviews of preprints can broaden scientific discussions, provide context for readers, and promote recognition and reuse of peer review. We support reviewers who become signatories of the Publish Your Review initiative [link]. If authors have posted their manuscript as a preprint, reviewers are welcome to publish the journal-independent part of their review. The review posted with the preprint should not compromise the confidentiality of the journal’s process. It should focus on providing feedback on the scholarly content of the manuscript. It should not include the name of the journal to which the manuscript has been submitted, any assessment of the extent to which the manuscript meets the standards of the journal, or any recommendations for publication in the journal. Practical information on how to publish a review is provided by the Publish Your Reviews initiative [link].