The 'Peer Community in' (PCI) is a non-profit scientific organisation that aims to create specific communities of researchers reviewing and recommending preprints in their field (unpublished articles deposited on open online archives).
These specific communities are entitled 'Peer Community in X', for example Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology (PCI Evol Biol), Peer Community in Ecology (PCI Ecol), Peer Community in Computational Statistics (PCI Comp Stat), and Peer Community in Paleontology (PCI Paleo).
Peer Community in Ecology (PCI Ecology) launched in December 2017. It is a community of recommenders playing the role of editors who recommend unpublished preprints based on peer reviews to make them complete, reliable and citable articles, without the need for publication in ‘traditional’ journals. Evaluation and recommendation by PCI Ecology are free of charge. When a recommender decides to recommend a preprint, they write a recommendation text that is published along with all the editorial correspondence (reviews, recommender's decisions, authors’ replies) by PCI Ecology. The preprint itself is not published by PCI Ecology. It remains in the preprint server where it has been posted by the authors. PCI Ecology recommenders can also recommend, but to a lesser extent, postprints.
Oxford member of PCI Ecology Managing Board: Professor Tim Coulson, Department of Zoology
Project website: Peer Community in Ecology website
The aim of PCI is to offer scientists a free, stimulating, transparent and non-exclusive way to validate and promote their scientific output, by removing this monopoly from journals. PCIs publicly highlight and recommend high-quality preprints. The preprints recommended by PCIs are complete articles of high value, that are reliable and citable without the need for publication in traditional journals. PCI wants to promote scientific repeatability to improve the overall robustness and integrity of our scientific conclusions.
Case study details
Recommendations and peer-reviews are deposited in HAL open archive.
PCI encourages authors to use preregistrations. Authors may post their research questions and analysis plan to an independent registry before observing the research outcomes, before writing and submitting their article. This provides a way for them to clarify their hypotheses, avoid confusing 'postdictions' and predictions, and carefully plan appropriate statistical treatment of the data.
PCI welcomes submissions of preregistrations. Authors can submit their preregistrations to a PCI before beginning their study, and thus before acquiring the data. Preregistrations are then evaluated by recommenders based on independent reviews, in exactly the same way as preprint articles. Preregistrations can be rejected or undergo revisions, improving the quality and robustness of the experimental design. When a preregistration is accepted, the subsequent article submitted to the corresponding PCI would be recommended provided the study has been conducted as described in the preregistration (or with clearly justified modifications). In this way, an article cannot be rejected due to the outcome of the study only.
All information leading to the recommendation of an article is made public: the name of the article's recommender, their editorial decisions and recommendation text, the reviews and suggested corrections and the authors’ replies are available from the PCI X website, and the consecutive versions of the preprint are deposited in open archives. Only the name of the additional reviewers may be withheld.
The recommendation has its own title, contains between about 300 and 1,500 words, describes the context, contains references (a reference to the preprint recommended at the very least) and explains why the preprint is particularly interesting. The limitations of the preprint may also be discussed. Once validated by the managing board, the 'recommendation' and all the editorial correspondence (reviews, your decisions, authors’ replies) are then published by PCI X. The recommendation text, signed by two recommenders, provides a link to the DOI of the article and is published (example).
Comments/reviews for rejected papers are not made publicly available.
When a preprint has been recommended the recommendation can be cited.
No editing (formatting) of the articles is carried out and articles are recommended without modification of their format. Unpublished versions of recommended preprints deposited in an open archive are not edited. PCI X ask only that the authors of recommended preprints add a cover page to their preprint, together with a sentence at the beginning of their abstract or in the acknowledgements stating that their preprint has been recommended by PCI X.
Preprints (for example in BioArXiv) link to PCI Ecology recommendation (example on BioArXiv).
The intended audience is primarily academics, although the paper, peer reviews and authors response are freely available to all.
- Peer Community in Ecology website
- Peer Community in Ecology blog
- Twitter: @PCI_Ecology and @PeerCommunityIn
Assessment, metrics and impact
Recommendations display almetric donuts.
Supporters include a number of scientific societies, journals, research institutions, and laboratories (list of supporters).
The cost has mainly been in the time input by academics within CNRS and recommenders.
Benefits of open approach
The benefits of the open approach adopted by the project are that it is transparent, straightforward, and fair. It should reduce the number of peer reviews an article receives.
Drawbacks of open approach
Even papers that are not recommended should be made available with the reviews and the authors’ comments. This is valuable work that the academic community could benefit from.
Possible changes to make the research more or less open
It would benefit from a larger community of peer reviewers and recommenders.