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How to encourage constructive public feedback on preprints?


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • As preprint publications increase in popularity, mechanisms to encourage transparent public review are needed.
  • The FAST principles provide a framework for use by authors, reviewers, and the wider community to foster engagement in preprint discussions.

The publication of preprint articles has gathered pace in recent years, accelerating rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic. A key advantage of preprints is that they can be scrutinised by a diverse audience ahead of submission to traditional scholarly journals. Despite the benefits of public feedback, just 5–10% of preprint articles on bioRxiv and medRxiv receive publicly accessible comments, with many reviewers preferring to provide feedback privately.

To help facilitate rapid and constructive preprint feedback, ASAPbio established a Working Group to develop best-practice guidance for public commentary and engagement with open preprint discussions. In their guest post on The Scholarly Kitchen, Sandra Franco Iborra, Jessica Polka, and Iratxe Puebla of ASAPbio summarised the FAST principles for preprint feedback that were developed.

The 14 FAST principles are grouped into 4 central themes:

  • Focussed: comments and feedback should focus on the scientific content and not the suitability for potential target journals.
  • Appropriate: reviewers should reflect on their potential biases and engage in scientific discourse respectfully and with integrity.
  • Specific: feedback should be candid, assess a study’s claims against the data presented, and be clear on whether issues identified are major or minor.
  • Transparent: reviews should be as open and transparent as possible and credit any co-reviewers. Those not comfortable signing their review can disclose their background or expertise alongside their comments.

The authors highlight that the unique features of the FAST principles mean that they are relevant to all involved in feedback, including journals, authors, and the wider community. Importantly, they are not intended to replace the reviewer guidance already provided by traditional scholarly journals, but rather complement it, to facilitate communication between authors and peer-reviewers and help promote positive behaviours for peer-reviewers.

The authors hope that the FAST principles will contribute to a broader conversation on the review process, helping produce a more positive and diverse culture.

The authors propose that encouraging public review of preprint articles could help journals expand and diversify their reviewer pool by identifying junior researchers and those located across broader geographical regions.

There has already been a move by some journals to incorporate preprint reviews into their editorial processes. Both Review Commons and Peer Community In Registered Reports (PCI RR) provide journal-independent preprint review, which is accepted by several affiliated journals. The FAST principles could be used to support this process, defining the expectations for preprint reviews that will ultimately be acceptable to scholarly journals.

The authors hope that the FAST principles will contribute to a broader conversation on the review process, helping produce a more positive and diverse culture.

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Will the FAST principles encourage you to engage in public discussion of preprint articles?

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