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PEER COMMUNITY IN (PCI)
WHO FOUNDED PCI?
PCI was created by Denis Bourguet, Benoit Facon and Thomas Guillemaud, senior scientists at INRAE (the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment). The PCI websites and e-mail system were initially developed by Sylvain Piry and Alexandre Dehne Garcia, engineers at INRAE.
WHAT IS PCI?
PCI is a non-profit scientific organization that aims to create thematic communities of researchers reviewing and recommending, for free, articles posted on preprint servers and other open-access repositories. These thematic communities are entitled Peer Community in X, e.g. Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology, and PCI Ecology.
WHAT IS THE GOAL OF PCI?
The aim of PCI is to provide scientists with a free, stimulating, transparent and non-exclusive way to evaluate, validate and promote their scientific output. The goal of the thematic PCIs is to highlight and recommend articles of particular interest to the community concerned. The articles recommended by PCIs are of high value, reliable and citable.
WHAT ARE THE STATUTES OF PCI?
ON WHAT ECONOMIC MODEL IS PCI BASED?
HOW TO SUPPORT PCI?
COULD ARTICLES BE RECOMMENDED BY SEVERAL DIFFERENT THEMATIC PEER COMMUNITIES IN?
Yes, and this is one of the chief advantages of PCI. The recommendation process is not exclusive, and articles of interest to several different PCIs could be recommended by all the communities concerned. This aspect is of particular interest for articles dealing with multidisciplinary studies. There is no a priori hierarchy of communities, although some are highly generalist (e.g. PCI Ecology) whereas others are more specialized (e.g. PCI Forest and Wood Sciences). However, an article already recommended by one PCI can only be recommended by another PCI in the form already recommended. In other words, once a PCI has recommended an article, the article concerned must be considered reviewed (i.e. like a published article) by all the other PCIs interested in recommending it. This prevents the recommendation of multiple versions of an article.
HOW CAN I START A NEW THEMATIC PCI?
The non-profit PCI organization is responsible for the creation and functioning of the various PCIs. The members of this organization (i.e. the founders of PCI and of each thematic PCI, and the members of the managing boards of all the thematic PCIs) collectively make decisions concerning the creation of each new PCI. If you would like to launch a new PCI, you should contact any Managing Board member and explain your project. See the dedicated post.
WHAT IS A RECOMMENDATION?
A “recommendation” is a short article (300 – 1500 words) similar to a News & Views piece, written by one or several recommenders. It is published on the corresponding thematic PCI website with its own title and DOI and can therefore be cited. It describes the context of the article recommended, explains why the recommender finds it interesting and why they decided to recommend it, and contains references. See an example here.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF A RECOMMENDER?
Recommenders play a role similar to that of journal associate editors (finding reviewers, collecting reviews, making editorial decisions based on reviews), and can choose to recommend an article after one or several rounds of review.
WHY WOULD SCIENTISTS CARE ABOUT A PCI RECOMMENDATION?
Recommendations are attributed to high-quality articles after rigorous and transparent peer review by a recognized group of colleagues. They allow open access to peer-reviewed articles, as recommended by PlanS. Authors of a PCI-recommended article can choose to publish it in open access, directly, and at no cost in Peer Community Journal. They can also choose to submit it to a PCI-friendly journal (acceptance with no further peer review, or response usually obtained within 5 working days, or use of PCI evaluation if appropriate).
FUNCTIONING OF THE THEMATIC PCIs
HOW BIG DO YOU HOPE/EXPECT A PCI TO BE?
We expect a PCI to bring together several hundred recommenders, but there is no restriction on numbers. This size is sufficient to ensure the recommendation of a large number of articles, even if each recommender recommends only one or two articles per year.
WHO ARE THE MEMBERS OF THE MANAGING BOARD?
The Managing Board of a PCI has between about 5 and 15 members chosen from the recommenders. The way in which members are chosen depend on the community. The members of the Managing Board of each PCI are part of the PCI non-profit organization. This non-profit organization is responsible for the creation and functioning of the various specific PCIs.
WHAT DOES THE MANAGING BOARD DO?
The Managing Board of each PCI has a role similar to that of the editor-in-chief of a journal. It approves the appointment of new recommenders, performs quality control on the format and deontology of the reviews and recommendations, and validates the submission of manuscripts. The Managing Board also deals with potential problems occurring during peer review (unavailability of the recommender, difficulties finding reviewers, etc.). It identifies and deals with dysfunctions, and can exclude recommenders, if necessary.
HOW MANY ARTICLES ARE RECOMMENDED BY EACH RECOMMENDER?
Each recommender manages the evaluation process for one or two articles per year, on average. No recommender is allowed to handle more than five articles per year, to minimize the risk of a few recommenders dominating the recommendations made.
ARE RECOMMENDERS, INCLUDING MEMBERS OF THE MANAGING BOARD, PAID FOR THEIR INVOLVEMENT IN PCI?
No, they are not.
CAN RECOMMENDERS BE EXCLUDED IF THEY DO NOT DO THEIR JOB CORRECTLY?
Yes, the Managing Board can exclude recommenders if their recommendations are of insufficient quality or if they do not respect the code of ethical conduct of PCI.
HOW CAN I BECOME A RECOMMENDER?
In each PCI, new recommenders are nominated by current recommenders and approved by the Managing Board. If you are interested in becoming a recommender, please contact a current recommender in your field or a member of the Managing Board of a PCI.
ARE DATA ARCHIVED?
CAN YOUNG RESEARCHERS (PHD STUDENTS OR POSTDOCS) BE REVIEWERS OR RECOMMENDERS FOR PCI?
Yes, as long as their expertise is recognized by their peers and that they have already published on the subject. Recommenders are generally selected among people who are post PhD, conduct independent research, and have at least a handful of first author articles (to ensure people have some experience with the publishing process).
SELECTION OF ARTICLES
WHAT FORMAT IS REQUIRED FOR ARTICLES SUBMITTED TO A PCI?
No editing or formatting of the article (including, in particular, for references) is required before submission to a PCI. The article should be presented so as to facilitate peer review (e.g. line numbering, definition of abbreviations, etc.). Complete instructions for authors are listed e.g. here.
WHICH ARTICLES CAN BE RECOMMENDED?
Recommended articles may be of different types: reviews, comments, opinion articles, research articles, data articles, technical notes, preregistrations, computer notes, movies, etc.
ARE ALL SUBMITTED ARTICLES RECOMMENDED?
No. Any article can be recommended, if a recommender agrees to handle its evaluation and if they decide to recommend it on the basis of the reviewers’ reports. However, not all submitted preprints are recommended, because not all preprints achieve the required quality.
HOW CAN I SUBMIT MY ARTICLE TO A PCI?
Authors can submit their article to a PCI via a dedicated tool on the PCI website. The article must have been deposited on a preprint server, open archive or institutional repository before submission. The article submitted to a PCI must not have been published or be under consideration for publication in a journal. Any recommender interested in handling the evaluation of the preprint can initiate the peer-review process.
WILL SOME ARTICLES BE LEFT UNEVALUATED?
Yes, probably. If no recommender agrees to handle the evaluation of the article after 10 days, it is returned to the authors. Depending on the size of the thematic PCI, the number of articles awaiting evaluation, and their quality, a fraction of the articles submitted may not be considered further.
WHAT IF AN AUTHOR WANTS TO SUBMIT THEIR ARTICLE TO BOTH A JOURNAL AND TO A PCI?
The processes of publication and recommendation are not exclusive: a preprint evaluated by a PCI can subsequently be submitted to a journal. However, parallel submission to a journal and to a PCI — i.e. submission to a PCI at the same time as submission to a journal — is not permitted because:
– Parallel peer review is a waste of time and effort for the scientific community.
– Sequential evaluation (by a PCI first and then submission to a journal) is more likely to result in scientific improvement of the paper.
– A growing number of journals are accepting PCI evaluations as part of their own editorial process.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO RECOMMEND OLD/PUBLISHED ARTICLES?
Yes, it is possible to recommend old/published articles. However, PCI focuses principally on the evaluation of new articles/experimental plans and unpublished articles (preprints).
PCI RECOMMENDATION PROCESS
HOW ARE ARTICLES EVALUATED?
When submitting their article to a PCI, the authors suggest several suitable recommenders based on the topic covered. If a recommender decides to handle the article, this recommender initiates the peer-review process. This process is very similar to the process of evaluation for publication in a journal, and includes at least two high-quality peer reviews. Based on these reviews, the recommender may decide to reject the article or to recommend it as it stands, or ask the authors to revise their article. Several rounds of reviews may be required before the recommender decides to reject or recommend an article. The recommender can decide to recommend the article once satisfactory responses have been obtained from the authors and the necessary changes have been made. Once validated by the Managing Board, the “recommendation” and all the editorial correspondence (reviews, decisions, authors’ replies) are then published by the thematic PCI.
An article already published in a journal can be recommended by a PCI if two recommenders consider it to be particularly interesting. In such cases, the recommenders directly write and jointly sign a “recommendation” that is published on the thematic PCI website after validation by the Managing Board, with a link to the DOI of the article.
ARE THERE GUIDELINES FOR AUTHORS?
ARE THERE GUIDELINES FOR RECOMMENDERS?
ARE THERE GUIDELINES FOR REVIEWERS?
IF I REVIEW AN ARTICLE SUBMITTED TO PCI, WILL MY NAME BE DISCLOSED?
The reviewer reports are always published on the thematic PCI website if the article is recommended, but the reviewers can choose to be anonymous. The names of reviewers agreeing to sign their review appear on the recommendation and on the formatted version of the recommended article.
HOW ARE THE RESPONSIBILITIES SHARED?
- The authors are responsible for the contents of their article.
- The reviewers are responsible for the contents of their review report and for evaluating the article in accordance with the code of conduct of PCI.
- The recommenders handling the articles are responsible for organizing the peer-review process, for their editorial decision and for the contents of their recommendation in accordance with the code of conduct of PCI.
- The Managing Board is responsible for validating submissions, decisions and recommendations, and is responsible for the functioning of the thematic PCI.
HOW CAN REVIEWERS AND RECOMMENDERS GET CREDIT FOR THEIR WORK FOR PCI?
- Reviewers can choose to sign their reviews that are published on the recommendation page. They can give the link to the recommendation or to their personal page on the corresponding PCI website (their reviews are available on both pages). Their reviews are therefore directly accessible by any evaluation committee.
- Recommenders always sign the recommendation that is published on the PCI website with a DOI. They can therefore include the reference of the recommendation in their list of scientific productions. Their editorial contribution is hence directly accessible by any evaluation committee.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO RECOMMEND POSTPRINTS?
PCI also recommends “postprints”, which we define as research papers that have already been published in peer-reviewed journals. PCI also considers books to be postprints because, despite not being evaluated by reviewers or editors before being published, they are often treated as such by academics.
As postprints (other than books, see above) have already undergone peer review before publication, an additional PCI peer review is not required for their recommendation. Each postprint recommendation is written by at least two PCI recommenders. Authors cannot submit their own articles or books to a thematic PCI for postprint recommendation. Instead, a postprint recommendation must be initiated by a recommender who has read the postprint and considers it worthy of recommendation. The recommender must then find at least one other co-recommender for completion of the recommendation process.
When a postprint recommendation is published by a thematic PCI, the word “postprint” is printed below the image illustrating the postprint, to differentiate it from preprint recommendations.
The recommendation text is published with a DOI, but is not accompanied by a peer review or editorial decision.
TRANSPARENCY AND ETHICS
WHAT PART OF THE EVALUATION PROCESS IS MADE PUBLIC?
All information leading to the recommendation of an article is made public:
- The name of the recommender responsible for recommending the article, their editorial decisions and recommendation text, the reviews and suggested corrections and the authors’ replies are available from the thematic PCI website
- The consecutive versions of the preprint are freely accessible in open archives.
Only the name of the reviewers may be withheld if they choose to remain anonymous.
HOW IS FREEDOM FROM BIAS, CRONYISM, RETALIATION AND FLATTERY ENSURED?
Bias, cronyism, retaliation and flattery are limited by i) the transparency of the reviews, which are freely available and may be signed, and ii) the transparency of recommendation texts, which are freely available and must be signed. In addition, PCI has established a code of ethical conduct (no conflict of interest, no recommending of articles authored by recent coauthors and/or friends, etc.) to be followed by recommenders, reviewers and authors. The Managing Board of the thematic PCI performs quality control to ensure reviews and recommendations comply with these ethical guidelines.
ARE COMMENTS/REVIEWS FOR REJECTED PAPERS PUBLICLY AVAILABLE?
No, only reviews and comments leading to the attribution of a recommendation (positive, but with criticisms and suggestions for improvement) are published. When a paper is rejected, the reviews and comments are sent to the authors but are not published.
CAN RECOMMENDERS OR MANAGING BOARD MEMBERS SUBMIT ARTICLES TO PCI?
Yes, all authors, whether or not they belong to PCI, can submit their articles to PCI. These articles follow the same process and the Managing Board (excluding any members who are co-authors of the submitted article) ensures that the Code of Conduct is followed. If the article is recommended, the Acknowledgements section of the article should mention the authors who act as recommenders in the thematic PCI.
FATE AND CITATIONS OF RECOMMENDED ARTICLES
HOW SHOULD YOU CITE A RECOMMENDATION?
Each recommendation by PCI has a DOI and can therefore be cited in another article or in a CV. For example:
Bravo IG (2017) Unmasking the delusive appearance of negative frequency-dependent selection. Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology, 100024. doi: 10.24072/pci.evolbiol.100024
HOW SHOULD YOU CITE A RECOMMENDED ARTICLE?
When an article is recommended by a PCI, it can be cited using the reference mentioned on the PCI website with the recommendation. This reference indicates which version of the article has been peer-reviewed and recommended:
Gallet R, Froissart R, Ravigné V. (2017) Things softly attained are long retained: Dissecting the impacts of selection regimes on polymorphism maintenance in experimental spatially heterogeneous environments. biorXiv, 100743, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community In Evolutionary Biology. doi: 10.1101/100743
ARE THE RECOMMENDED ARTICLES EDITED BY PCI?
No, no type-setting (editing/formatting) of the articles is carried out by PCI. However, PCI provides templates (word, Latex, Org-Mode, R-Markdown) to allow the authors to format their article so that readers know that the version of the article was peer-reviewed and recommended by a PCI. Authors of recommended articles are also asked to add a sentence in the acknowledgements stating that their article has been recommended by a PCI – e.g. see this article.
DO I HAVE TO DEPOSIT MY RECOMMENDED PREPRINT IN AN INSTITUTIONAL REPOSITORY?
Some institutions require authors to deposit their Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) in their institutional repositories. This is the case, for example, at the CNRS, which has an open-access policy requiring researchers to deposit their accepted manuscripts in HAL (https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr). In such cases we advise authors to deposit the version of the preprint recommended by PCI in their institutional repository.
ARE THE RECOMMENDED ARTICLES INDEXED?
Yes, recommended articles are indexed. Google Scholar indexes all sorts of documents (articles, books, reports, etc.), including preprints deposited in repositories, such as arXiv, bioRxiv, and Hal. These platforms therefore record preprint citations in the same way as they record citations of articles published in journals. An author’s profile in Google Scholar would therefore take into account recommended articles, whether the articles concerned are articles from repositories or articles published in journals.
Europe PMC also indexes articles (with a DOI) recommended by PCI. It is possible to search for articles recommended by a PCI by performing an advanced search with “Peer Community In” in the External Links menu, or by pasting “(LABS_PUBS:”1826″)” in the search bar. This is a direct link to the articles recommended by a PCI: https://europepmc.org/search?query=%28LABS_PUBS:%221826%22%29
WHAT CAN I DO WITH MY RECOMMENDED ARTICLE?
WOULD SCIENTIFIC JOURNALS ACCEPT ARTICLES WITH A PCI RECOMMENDATION AS VALID CITABLE REFERENCES?
Most life sciences journals accept the citation of preprints in the reference list of their publications (see reference), provided that they are correctly cited. Recommended articles have a specific reference format indicating that they were peer-reviewed and recommended. They can therefore be cited.
DO SCIENTIFIC JOURNALS ACCEPT THE SUBMISSION OF PREPRINTS DEPOSITED IN OPEN ARCHIVES?
DO SCIENTIFIC JOURNALS ACCEPT THE SUBMISSION OF ARTICLES ALREADY REVIEWED AND RECOMMENDED BY A PCI?
First, increasing numbers of journals are accepting articles deposited as preprints in open archives for submission.
Second, an article reviewed and recommended by a PCI is an article with a guaranteed level of quality. It is not a published paper. There is, therefore, no reason for a journal to refuse the submission of recommended articles, quite the opposite in fact.
Third, our list of recommenders includes numerous associate editors, editors and editors-in-chief of major journals.
Fourth, several journals have chosen to be PCI-friendly.
Fifth, since the creation of PCI, many recommended articles have been published in journals (see example).
What are PCI-friendly journals?
- PCI-friendly journals have agreed to take the PCI evaluation into account in their own evaluation of articles.
- They endorse the PCI review criteria and agree to accept, without further peer review, any manuscript recommended by PCI.
- Or they clearly indicate to the authors, within a very short time frame, whether the article will be peer reviewed, accepted with no further peer review or rejected.
- Or they consider submissions of articles recommended by a PCI and they may use PCI reviews and recommendations for their own review processes, if appropriate.
How do PCI-friendly journal work?
- After a recommendation, authors may choose the Peer Community Journal, any PCI-friendly journal (see below), another journal, or no journal, if they prefer the article to be hosted solely on their preferred preprint server or on an open repository.
- If the authors choose to submit their article to a PCI-friendly journal committed to accepting PCI recommended articles, the article will be accepted without further peer review, provided that the subject and type of article fall within the scope of the journal. The journal may ask for minor modifications of format.
- If the authors choose to submit their article to a PCI-friendly journal committed to providing the authors with a fast answer, they will receive a rapid response, generally within five days, indicating whether the journal is interested, whether additional reviews are needed or whether the article is accepted with minor modifications. Following this response, the authors may decide to withdraw their article and to submit it to another journal.
- If the authors choose to submit their article to a PCI-friendly journal committed to use the PCI evaluation if appropriate, then the journal may or may not use the PCI evaluation.
- The authors can successively submit their article to as many PCI-friendly journal as they choose. They can choose to submit their article to the Peer Community Journal at any time.
What is Peer Community Journal?
Once an article has been recommended by a PCI, the authors can opt to publish it in Peer Community Journal, to leave it on a preprint server, to submit it to a PCI-friendly journal or to any other journal.
Peer Community Journal is run by researchers for researchers, and is funded by public research institutions. It is:
- Unique = it is a single journal for all PCIs
- Free = it is a diamond open-access journal (free for both authors and readers).
- Exclusive = it publishes only articles recommended by PCI
- Unconditional = it can publish any PCI-recommended article in its existing state
- Opt-in = it publishes articles only if the authors wish it
- Immediate = there is no delay between submission and publication
This journal, created and funded by the PCI organization accepts PCI-recommended articles without further peer review.
Following its launch, Peer Community Journal will be evaluated by international scientific databases for indexation.
The articles published by Peer Community Journal are published under CC-BY license.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A RECOMMENDED ARTICLE IS SUBSEQUENTLY PUBLISHED IN A SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL?
The recommendation applies only to a particular version of the article, mentioned on the thematic PCI website and in the reference list of the recommendation. The version of the article published in the journal mentions the recommended article, usually in the acknowledgements (example).
COMMENTING ON ARTICLE RECOMMENDATIONS
CAN I COMMENT ON RECOMMENDATIONS AND ON THE CORRESPONDING ARTICLES?
Yes, every registered user on a PCI website can comment on recommendations. All comments are welcome, provided that they deal with science, are signed and are respectful. Comments considered abusive can be notified to the Managing Board, which may decide to withdraw them.
CAN I REPLY TO A COMMENT ON RECOMMENDATIONS?
Yes, every registered user on a PCI website can reply to a comment, provided that the reply deals with science, is signed and is respectful. Comments considered abusive can be notified to the Managing Board, which may decide to withdraw them.
WHAT IF I DISAGREE WITH A RECOMMENDATION?
If a reader disagrees with a recommendation or with any comments on an article, they can write a comment. This comment will be published, provided that it is signed and is respectful. Comments not respecting these rules can be notified to the Managing Board, which may decide to withdraw them.