Copernicus Publications has been offering the innovative Interactive Public Peer Review since 2001. In a first stage, manuscripts that pass a swift access review by the handling editor are posted as preprints in the journal’s discussion forum. They are then subject to interactive public discussion, during which the referees' reports are posted as comments (anonymous or attributed), short comments can be posted by members of the scientific community (attributed), and the authors' replies are published. In a second stage, the peer-review process is completed and, if accepted, the final revised papers are published in the journal. All referee and editor reports, the authors' response, as well as the different manuscript versions of the post-discussion review of the revised submission, are published too. To ensure publication precedence for authors, and to provide a lasting record of scientific discussions, the discussion forum and the journal are both permanently archived and citable.
The process aims to provide both rapid scientific exchange and thorough quality assurance. Through the immediate posting of manuscripts after a swift access review, scientists receive a fast record of their research as a preprint. The Interactive Public Peer Review enhances transparency as referee comments, author comments, and the comments of the scientific community are published online and are openly accessible. However, the process meets the criteria of traditional quality assurance as papers undergo revisions and are only published as final revised papers in the journal after final acceptance by the editor. In summary, the process fosters scientific discussion, maximizes the effectiveness and transparency of scientific quality assurance, enables rapid dissemination of new scientific results, and makes scientific publications freely accessible (Pöschl 2012, 10.3389/fncom.2012.00033, van Edig 2016, https://doi.org/10.3233/978-1-61499-649-1-28). This process is applied successfully in 20 of the 42 journals we publish.
In the access review, editors need to assess whether a manuscript is within the scope of the journal, whether it meets basic scientific quality, and whether it contributes something new to the respective field. After approval of a manuscript for Interactive Public Peer Review, it is posted as a preprint in the journal’s discussion forum and is citable through a DOI. During the discussion phase different parties can engage in an iterative and developmental reflective process. In the interactive discussion, comments are posted by designated referees (anonymous or named). In addition, all interested members of the scientific community (named) can contribute as well. All participants are encouraged to stimulate further debate rather than simply preserve their position. The overall goal is to enhance the manuscript and thereby maximize the impact of the article. Usually, every preprint receives at least two comments by the referees, which are requested by the editor. Authors are encouraged to participate actively by posting author comments as a direct reply to referee comments and short comments from the scientific community. After the end of the open discussion, authors need to publish a response to all comments in case they have not done so during the discussion phase. In journals with post-discussion editor decision, the editor – based on the authors’ responses – either invites the authors to submit a revised manuscript or directly rejects the manuscript. If necessary the editor may also consult referees as is done during traditional peer review. In journals without post-discussion editor decision, authors need to submit their revised manuscript 4 to 8 weeks after the discussion. Taking the access peer review and interactive public discussion into account, the editor either directly accepts/rejects the revised manuscript for publication in the journal or consults referees again. If needed, revisions may be requested during peer-review completion until a final decision about acceptance/rejection is reached.
Journals have to select whether they want to apply the Interactive Public Peer Review or not. Hence, if a journal opts for it, all manuscripts submitted to this journal will follow this process.
Interactive Public Peer Review has been successfully applied since 2001. Since then, the basic concept has remained unchanged even though additional features have been implemented (accelerated access review, post-discussion editor decision, post-discussion report publication, no more typesetting of the preprints). At the moment, 20 out of 42 journals we publish apply this peer-review process. Several journals have switched from applying a traditional peer review to the Interactive Public Peer Review.