Nature Peer Review Trial: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

In June 2006, for about 3 months, Nature is undertaking a trial of one type of peer review. This trial is continuing in parallel with the usual peer review process, and will allow the editors to assess the value of soliciting comments from scientists while submitted papers are being peer reviewed. Below is a list of questions and answers which we hope will make clear to authors, reviewers, scientists and readers how the trial works and what will happen as a result.

What is the trial?

The trial is to test the quality of unsolicited comments made during an open peer review process, against the traditional process with no unsolicited comments. Nature will offer authors the opportunity to choose to participate in a trial. If they wish to do so, their submitted manuscript will be uploaded to a preprint server simultaneously with being sent out for normal, confidential peer review. The scientific community can comment on the posted manuscript. When the editor has received the peer reviewers' reports, the commenting period will be closed.

Why is Nature undertaking this trial?

There has been much discussion in the community about peer review systems. Nature will measure the level of participation among authors and the quality of comments received by members of the specialist community who are not the selected peer reviewers of the manuscripts concerned.

Does this mean that Nature thinks there is a problem with the traditional peer review system?

Not at all. However, Nature is always looking to improve its services to readers, authors and reviewers. New publishing technologies offer opportunities, which we are interested to explore. Hence we are undertaking this limited trial.

Will the community comments be used in the editor's decision about publication?

The editor will read and assess all the comments made while deciding about publication. If any of the comments seem helpful, the editor will include them as part of his or her routine feedback to the authors. If they are not helpful, the editor will not use them.

What will Nature do after the trial?

This will depend on the popularity of the trial with authors, and whether the comments received have helped the editors to make decisions about publication.

I am an author; can I choose whether to post my manuscript on the preprint server?

Yes. Posting is entirely optional and has no bearing on the decision about publication. All authors whose manuscripts are being sent out for peer review will be offered the option of simultaneously posting the manuscript on the preprint server.

As an author, does posting a preprint make the journal's assessment of my manuscript slower?

No. As soon as the peer reviewers' comments are received by the editor, the commenting period will end.

Are comments on the preprint server anonymous?

No. Anyone wanting to comment will have to give a name and institutional email address. The instructions require the person making comments to confirm that the name and address provided are real.

Are comments on the preprint server moderated?

The editors will read all comments before they are published. Any irrelevant, intemperate or otherwise inappropriate comments will not be published. All reasonable comments will be published. Nature does not anticipate that published comments will be edited.

Can the reviewers comment on the preprint server?

Yes, if they wish. They are not obliged to do so.

Do reviewers have to disclose that they are the reviewers if they comment?

It is up to them. They will have to provide their name and addresses as a condition of making a comment, but they do not have to disclose that they are a peer reviewer of the manuscript.

Can the authors respond to comments made on the preprint server?

Yes, if they like. It is up to them.

Can authors and commenters get in touch with each other directly?

Yes, if they want.

I've been asked to peer review a manuscript that is also on the preprint server. What do I do?

It is up to you. You can review the manuscript via the link that the editor sends you and return your comments in the usual way. Or you can look at the preprint server comments and use those as part of your report.

If I am a peer reviewer, will my report be published on the preprint server?

Nature will not post reviewers' reports on the preprint server, and will keep them confidential in the usual way. However, in addition to sending your report to the editor, you can post it directly onto the server if you wish. You will have to include your name and address, but you can decide whether you wish to note on the report that you are a reviewer.

How will scientists know that a new manuscript has been posted on the preprint server?

Nature will publicise the trial on its website, via an rss feed, and by other means.

Does posting the preprint break the journal's embargo policy?

No, Nature already allows authors to post preprints on recognised preprint servers; the same policy applies here. Nature will not be publicising any preprints to the media or otherwise commenting on them until the final version is published. We cannot exclude members of the media from signing up for the e-alerts, but we will state in our sign-up instructions that the e-alerts are for the scientific community only, and that the preprints are not intended for media comment.

What happens if the manuscript is rejected in the light of the reviewers' comments?

The manuscript and comments on the preprint server will be removed from public access, and the author is free to resubmit the manuscript elsewhere.

I have revised my manuscript in response to reviewers' comments. Can I post the revised, resubmitted version on the Nature preprint server?

No. This might be possible in future, but for the duration of the trail, only first submissions may be posted.

My manuscript was posted on the preprint server at initial submission and, in the light of reviewers' comments, I was invited to resubmit a revised version. Will the original submission remain visible on the preprint server?

No. The earlier version and comments will not be available for public access.

My manuscript has been accepted for publication. Will the preprint and comments be available for public access while it is in production or after publication?

The editor will offer you the option.

If the manuscript is rejected by Nature, will the authors be able to publish elsewhere?

Yes, if that journal's policies consider manuscripts for publication that have previously been posted as preprints, and most do.

Whether or not the preprint is eventually published in Nature, isn't there a chance of the results being scooped by competitors?


What would happen if someone with a similar result saw the preprint and submitted to Nature?

The author concerned should cite the preprint in his or her submission, as is usual practice for a preprint on any preprint server. The editor can therefore take whatever action seems appropriate in the light of the earlier submission.

Isn't there a chance of the results in the preprint being picked up by the media?

Yes. Although Nature will not be publicising its preprints, anyone can read what is posted on the preprint server or sign up to e-alerts of new postings (though the instructions say that e-alerts are for the scientific community and not intended for media comment, it is not possible to exclude individuals from signing up).

What happens to manuscripts that, after being posted as preprints, are published in Nature?

For the duration of the trial, nothing different from usual. Nature will not note that the manuscript was previously posted as a preprint, although the authors may do so if they wish.

Would Nature include on its press-release a manuscript that is being published in the journal after previously being posted on the preprint server?

Yes, by the usual criteria of our press office. But if Nature was aware that the media had reported on the earlier version, it would note on the press release that an earlier version of this manuscript had been covered in the media.

Would this make journalists less likely to cover the work?

Possibly. We don't know, but will be monitoring this during the course of the trial.

What would be the received and published date of the manuscript, if it is published in Nature?

No different from current policy.

We hope that any question you have about our trial is answered by the list above. If you have any general questions that remain unanswered, please contact us. If you are the author or reviewer of a particular submitted manuscript and have specific questions relating to that, you should contact the editor who is handling the manuscript.