Capturing the value added to a paper during peer review

26 September 2019

Preprints accelerate science by making research accessible prior to journal publication, but peer-review often substantially improves papers. While for a long time the review history of a paper was not visible to anyone apart from the authors and reviewers/editors, recently, increasing numbers of journals have started publishing this information alongside the paper (including The Company of Biologists journals Development and Journal of Cell Science). This can provide insightful details to the reader about how the authors dealt with reviewer concerns, but there is still a long way to go until most journals adopt transparent peer review, and even then, readers might wish to get a more succinct overview about the improvements that happened from preprint to the version of record.


preLights posts currently contain a preprint digest with author comments in response to questions raised by the preLighters. The digest also automatically links to the peer-reviewed version of the paper once published in a journal. To expand this conversation, we would now like to include the author’s comments about the peer-review process. Rather than providing a full list of changes, we ask authors to explain what they feel were the key improvements to their study that resulted from peer review, and tell us whether the reviewers’ comments changed their perspective of the study.


This idea originated from one of our preLighters, Gautam Dey. Together with ASAPbio, he hopes to create a database that pairs preprints with their published articles and peer review reports where available. This database could then be used as an educational resource for teaching students about peer review. He has piloted this idea in a classroom setting by asking early-stage graduate students to compare a preprint with its final published version as a way to encourage constructive critique, as well as open a window into the peer review process.


Another motivation for including comments on peer review stems from the large number of views preLights posts get several months after they are published, especially at the time of journal publication. Once updated with author comments to reflect the changes arising from peer review, the preLights posts could essentially serve as a ‘News & views’ of the published paper.

Therefore, we would like to invite all authors whose work we have featured so far to provide a short comment below the preLights post, answering the question “In your view, what were the most important things you improved in your study as a result of peer review?”.