One of the main criticisms of the publishing process is the time it takes to go through peer review. More specifically, it’s the unknown amount of time the process will take that makes peer review feel like the “black box” that it is. Peer review is also one of the largest pain points for reviewers who may be inundated with requests from journals. On Tuesday 24th March we introduced a small-scale, one month experiment on fast track peer review (up to 40 manuscripts maximum), which would enable authors to receive a first decision within three weeks of passing our quality control checks.

Trial has been running from two weeks and couple of weeks are left to run on it. Some of the feedback has been received from Editorial Board Members and the general scientific community. The response was positive and negative.

We developed Rubriq to save reviewers and author’s time without compromising on rigor. Our scorecards help busy reviewers provide high-quality, rigorous feedback in an easy-to-use format. The resulting Rubriq Report gives authors clear feedback on how to improve and journals clear indicators of whether a manuscript would be acceptable for publication. It’s for these reasons we are pleased to launch another experimental use of Rubriq. Starting this week, Rubriq and NPG’s Scientific Reports will be collaborating on a limited trial to fast-track submissions through the peer review process.  Much like priority mail, where you can pay extra to guarantee delivery by a certain date, fast-track will do the same for authors submitting paper to Scientific Reports.

Appeals will handled by Scientific Reports following standard procedures.

NPG is first and foremost here to serve scientists. As scientists our method is to run experiments, measure the results, learn and adapt. Testing and evolving the peer review process is something we’ve embraced over many years at NPG. The decision to conduct this pilot study was taken after careful consideration – in a 2014 survey of over 30,000 NPG researchers, authors told us that they want us to innovate when it comes to peer review:

  • 70% authors are frustrated with the time peer-review takes
  • 77% think traditional peer review could be made more efficient
  • 67% think publishers should experiment with alternative peer-review methods

Why is there only internal vetting of peer reviews?

The standard peer review process at Scientific Reports involves editorial board members choosing peer reviewers, and then making editorial decisions based on reports provided by these reviewers. For the purposes of this small-scale pilot (which was not intended to be scalable in its current format) peer reviewers are chosen by Rubriq. The editorial decisions, based on peer reviewers’ reports, are made by PhD-qualified, in-house Scientific Reports editors. This ensures we can deliver a first decision within three weeks.

We hope to learn a lot from the trial to improve the author and reviewer experiences. We believe minimizing the uncertainty surrounding the peer review process and speeding up the time to a decision on publication will be of real value to researchers, giving them more time to focus on making discoveries. We are excited to launch the Rubriq fast track trial with Scientific Reports.