Faster publication advances your science: The three R's

Open AccessPublished:January 10, 2020DOI:
      The three R's of publishing are not “reading, (w)riting, and (a)rithmetic,” but “rapid, rigorous review.” Researchers need to communicate their findings to one another as rapidly as possible to move science forward. Preprints achieve this, and we endorse their use. But the general consensus in biosciences is that rigorous peer review improves the quality, clarity, and reproducibility of scientific research findings. The irrefutable conclusion is that journals should do their utmost to facilitate quality peer review with the fastest timeline possible. JBC is not only committed to doing this, but is doing it. And after listening to many colleagues discuss their publication experiences at other journals, it's clear that JBC's rapid manuscript turnaround puts it at the top of the pack. How is this achieved?
      • JBC accelerates the assignment of high-quality reviewers. Because JBC maintains a standing editorial board of scientists with diverse expertise, most papers can be assigned to referees almost immediately, saving days or weeks of open-ended searches. Moreover, JBC editorial board members are trained in journal policies and good review practices so that their reports can be thoughtful, constructive, and timely and make it clear to our Associate Editors and authors how to proceed. Thanks in large part to this structure, the average time from submission to first decision at JBC is 17 days. For Accelerated Communications, it is even faster—just 9 days.
      • JBC avoids lengthy cycles of revision. Like many peer journals, JBC seeks to provide authors feedback that does not lead to extensive new experiments, open-ended or poorly-focused revisions, and in general, lengthy periods in which the manuscript is “under review.” To this end, we have counseled our editorial board members and we give instructions to outside reviewers to avoid requesting additional work that expands the scope of the paper. Nonetheless, some papers do need extensive revision to become publication-ready. In order to give responses to authors that are consistent with these goals and situations, we have recently revised our decision types to Accept, Revise, Decline, and Reject. A “Revise” decision means that, with relatively little change, the paper can be revised to reach acceptable standards. “Decline” means that the topic is of interest to readers of JBC and has appropriate potential significance, but the work is premature or missing necessary experiments. The authors may work on the paper using the feedback they receive and re-submit it as a new manuscript. A “Reject” decision signifies that the paper is outside the scope of JBC or has fatal flaws that preclude its publication, and authors are not invited to re-submit. These decision types are designed to help authors make realistic choices, to make the review cycle faster, and to avoid having papers caught in a protracted cycle of revision and re-review.
      • JBC ensures rapid publication of accepted manuscripts. JBC posts your manuscript as an open access “Paper in press” within 1 day of acceptance. Recent enhancements have also accelerated the delivery of galley proofs to authors to enable faster appearance of the final, redacted manuscript.
      We wanted to point out these strengths, as they definitely put JBC at the leading edge in the landscape of scientific publication. But there will always be more ways we can help advance science: Here are a few enhancements in the works.
      • Reviewer consultation before decision: Several journals use consultation between reviewers prior to decisions as a way to establish consensus about the importance of a paper and to improve the quality of reviews. We see the appeal of this process, but the premium we have placed on getting a decision to authors as rapidly as possible has taken precedence in our process. We are currently piloting a “reviewer consultation” stage meant to balance the advantages of consultation against its cost in the rapidity of review. In the process being tested, reviewers have a brief window of time to see the critiques of other reviewers and respond with edits to their own reviews or comments on the other reviews, if they wish.
      • Empowering authors in moving from one journal to another: When a paper is rejected from one journal and submitted to another, a new cycle of potentially unnecessary peer review is generally initiated. To help minimize the resulting delay, JBC is currently finalizing a system for manuscript transfer among the three journals published by ASBMB and is actively investigating other partnerships that would enable manuscript transfer more broadly. We are also discussing a system that would allow authors to take the reviews they received from JBC and use them for a subsequent submission at any journal, should they so choose. Reviewer identities would remain confidential to the author but be communicated to the editors of the new journal. To make the review process more transparent and to facilitate these inter-journal transfers, we are eliminating the Confidential Comments section of the review form and communicating the full critique to the author. Authors should also know that they are welcome to provide reviews from a previous submission of their manuscript when they submit to JBC. There are no promises as to how prior reviews will impact the fate of the paper at JBC, but the Associate Editor will consider these as he or she decides on the review strategy.
      At JBC, our highest priority is doing what's best for science. We are proud of the high-quality, impressively rapid review process at JBC. We also are committed to improve further. Let us know any ways you can envision to more effectively and quickly disseminate your scientific advances. And in the spirit of the season, we toast the wonderful scientific discoveries that abound among our scientific community!