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Talking Peer Review: Q&A with F1000

Happy Peer Review Week!

On the 19th of September we will be announcing the winner of our Sentinel Award - for outstanding advocacy, innovation or contribution to scholarly peer review. It's part of our wider Publons Peer Review Awards, which celebrates the top reviewers of 2017.

In this series of Q&A posts leading up to the Sentinel Award announcement, we meet our eight finalists and get to know a bit more about them.

Up today, we have the innovative open access publishing platform, F1000Research. Here's what our judges had to say:

"F1000’s success is proof there are alternative and innovative approaches to peer review. As a frontrunner in this respect, F1000 has acted as a catalyst for change and fresh thinking in the industry. We now see other journals and publishers experimenting with their peer review models -- ultimately looking to innovate for the benefit of scholarly communication.."

We asked F1000's Managing Director, Dr Rebecca Lawrence, a few questions:

Can you tell us a bit about F1000Research?

Since 2013 with the launch of F1000Research, we have been working with research funding agencies, institutions and societies to provide innovative open research publishing solutions. The model of publication that underpins each of these open research publishing platforms provides a new way to share scholarly research fast, transparently and cost-effectively. Funders and institutions are joining us in changing the way scholarly research is published. We launched a dedicated publishing platform on behalf of Wellcome in late 2016 – Wellcome Open Research. This will soon be joined by Gates Open Research, UCL Child Health Open Research and MNI Open Research, with many others to follow.

What does an improved peer review process look like to you and how is F1000 working to achieve this?

One of the fundamental differences of these publishing platforms is the new approach to peer review that we developed for F1000Research, and have been testing and improving on ever since. All articles on these platforms must pass an initial in-house quality check and are then published in an open access format, but clearly labelled awaiting peer review. Once online, each article undergoes invited open peer review guided by the author, where both the referee’s name and affiliation and the referee reports are published alongside the article. Authors can then decide what they want to do next – they can revise their article (as many times as they wish), publishing new independently citable versions of their article; and they can stop when they are happy they have completed the process. Those articles that achieve an adequately positive referee status are indexed in the major bibliographic databases such as PubMed.

Who or what inspired you to work towards this?

Our Chairman, Vitek Tracz, has long believed that the current system of peer review and publication is broken. In developing and launching our open research platforms we hope to bring a real change to the current system. In July, we launched ORC (Open Research Central) as a way of bringing these platforms together and changing the way researchers share their findings to a more open, immediate and transparent way.

What does transparency in peer review (the theme of this year's Peer Review Week) mean to you?

To us transparency means several things. It means authors knowing and deciding who is best to review their work – at F1000, we believe authors are often best placed to judge who has the best expertise (within strict criteria) to peer review their article. The full openness of our model means everyone can see who has refereed and what they say. It means that reviewers, including co-reviewers, get credit for their work because their report is published and can be cited independently of the article, and can be added to the reviewer’s ORCID and Publons profiles. Because we require that the data underpinning all published findings are shared, this transparency improves the ability of others to reanalyse and reproduce the studies. And transparency means readers can see what exactly has been said about our articles and by who, and then make their own judgement on the findings based on this.

What are your plans for the future?

In the more immediate term, we are looking forward to when Gates Open Research begins publishing later this year, followed swiftly by the other platforms. We also have several other platforms announcing soon. We also continue to work hard on our peer review process and on ways we can improve it further. And in the longer term, we hope through ORC (Open Research Central) and through working with the broader scientific community, we can enable a wholesale shift in the way research findings are communicated to a more rapid and transparent system, where publishers move from gatekeepers to being service providers to the research community.

Our Publons Peer Review Award sponsors are:

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