Interview with Denis Bourguet and Thomas Guillemaud on Peer Community In (PCI)

In our Eurodoc interview series, we chat with early-career researchers and experts working on interesting projects and developing new tools for research and innovation in Europe.

In this interview, we talk with Thomas Guillemaud and Denis Bourguet who are developing “Peer Community In” a preprint evaluation platform​, offering the opportunity to speed the manuscripts publication.

What is the Peer Community In (PCI) initiative?

The aim of the ‘Peer Community In’ (PCI) project is to establish communities of researchers who peer-review and recommend articles in their scientific field. The PCI initiative is based on authors depositing a preprint in an open archive, like arXiv.org and bioRxiv.org, and then requesting peer review by researchers in their own PCI community such as the Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology (PCI Evol Biol). PCI editors can decide to send the article on to minimally two reviewers for peer-review who then submit peer review reports. The reports typically recommend accepting, asking for modifications, or rejecting the preprint. In the case of acceptance, PCI publishes the reviews, a positive recommendation signed by the editor, and correspondence between the authors and editors. All these items are available free of charge to readers on the PCI website. The recommendation texts are registered with a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) and can be cited. Importantly, the acceptance of a preprint by a PCI does not prevent its subsequent submission for publication in a journal.

What are advantages/disadvantages of PCI?

The advantage of PCI is that it offers a free alternative to the current publishing system which is considered by many researchers as being too costly, generally not transparent, and not very efficient for publishing scholarly results. PCI offers the possibility of evaluating and recommending submitted preprints free of charge. The evaluated articles are deposited in open archives and are therefore immediately available to readers as soon as they have been peer reviewed. PCI is fully transparent and publishes all information on the preprint, evaluation, and recommendation stages on the disciplinary PCI website. One limitation of PCI is that it is a recent initiative and is still relatively unknown. Researchers, institutions, and funding agencies tend to give high importance to popular brand and high impact factor journals and thus may be reluctant to use an innovative and lesser known initiative like PCI.

Eurodoc has supported and contributed to the implementation of Open Access via Plan S. How will PCI contribute to Open Access and Plan S?

PCI is fully Open Access - articles submitted and recommended by PCI are deposited in open repositories - at no cost for authors and readers. PCI is therefore compatible with both Open Access and Plan S and may even help Plan S to be more revolutionary. Indeed, although Plan S may trigger a more widely open scholarly publishing system, it seems to offer a limited solution to decreasing the substantial costs currently paid by libraries, research institutions, and funders. The implementation of Plan S could potentially result in a transfer of publishing costs from readers (via subscriptions paid by their libraries) to authors (via article processing charges paid by their institutions and funders). We believe that Plan S could not only radically alter the current scholarly publishing system but also drastically decrease the overall costs of publishing. PCI could play a role in implementing Plan S.

What are your future plans for PCI?

Our future plans for PCI are:

(i) to increase the number of preprint submissions to each existing PCI (namely PCI Evol Biol, PCI Ecology, and PCI Paleontology). To do this, we aim to increase the number of organisations who support PCI such as doctoral schools, institutions, and learned societies. We will also continue to promote PCI to researchers via laboratories, seminars, workshops, conferences, and online editorials.

(ii) to launch PCI communities in other scientific fields. At least two new PCIs (namely PCI Entomology and PCI Animal Science) will be launched in the coming months. Additional PCIs are now also in development and are scheduled to go live in 2019-2020 (such as PCI Circuit Neuroscience, PCI Mathematical and Computational Biology, PCI Genomics, and PCI Registered Reports).

See our website for more information on PCI and contact [at] peercommunityin.org (get in touch) if you want to create your own PCI!