Reviews for our Barosaurus preprint

September 24, 2013

Yesterday I announced that our new paper on Barosaurus was up as a PeerJ preprint and invited feedback.

I woke up this morning to find its third substantial review waiting for me.

That means that this paper has now accumulated as much useful feedback in the twenty-seven hours since I submitted it as any previous submission I’ve ever made.


Taylor and Wedel (2013b: figure 7). Barosaurus lentus holotype YPM 429, Vertebra S (C?12). Left column from top to bottom: dorsal, right lateral and ventral views; right column: anterior view. Inset shows displaced fragment of broken prezygapophysis. Note the narrow span across the parapophyses in ventral view, and the lack of damage to the ventral surface of the centrum which would indicate transverse crushing.

It’s worth reviewing the timeline here:

  • Monday 23rd September, 1:19 am: I completed the submission process.
  • 7:03 am: the preprint was published. It took less than six hours.
  • 10:52 am: received a careful, detailed review from Emanuel Tschopp. It took less than four hours from publication, and so of course less than ten from submission.
  • About 5:00 pm: received a second review, this one from Mark Robinson. (I don’t know the exact time because PeerJ’s page doesn’t show an actual timestamp, just “21 hours ago”.)
  • Tuesday 24th September, about 4:00 am: received a third review, this from ceratopsian-jockey and open-science guru Andy Farke.

Total time from submission to receiving three substantial reviews: about 27 hours.

It’s worth contrasting that with the times taken to get from submission to the receipt of reviews — usually only two of them — when going through the traditional journal route. Here are a few of mine:

  • Diplodocoid phylogenetic nomenclature at the Journal of Paleontology, 2004-5 (the first reviews I ever received): three months and 14 days.
  • Revised version of the same paper at PaleoBios, 2005 (my first published paper): one month and 10 days.
  • Xenoposeidon description at Palaeontology, 2006: three months and 19 days, although that included a delay as the handling editor sent it to a third, tie-breaking, reviewer.
  • Brachiosaurus revision at the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 2008: one month and 11 days.
  • Sauropod neck anatomy (eventually to be published in a very different form in PeerJ) at Paleobiologyfive months and two days.
  • Trivial correction to the Brachiosaurus revision at the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 2010: five months and 11 days, bizarrely for a half-page paper.

Despite the wide variations in submission-to-review time at these journals, it’s clear that you can expect to wait at least a month before getting any feedback at all on your submission at traditional journals. Even PeerJ took 19 days to get the reviews of our neck-anatomy paper back to us.

So I am now pretty such sold on the pre-printing route. As well as getting this early version of the paper out there early so that other palaeontologists can benefit from it (and so that we can’t be pre-emptively plagiarised), issuing a preprint has meant that we’ve got really useful feedback very quickly.

I highly recommend this route.

By the way, in case anyone’s wondering, PeerJ Preprints is not only for manuscripts that are destined for PeerJ proper. They’re perfectly happy for you to use their service as a place to gather feedback for your work before submitting it elsewhere. So even if your work is destined for, say, JVP, there’s a lot to be gained by preprinting it first.

18 Responses to “Reviews for our Barosaurus preprint”

  1. Doesn’t it feel like this is the way things should be? The LIBRE platform was precisely designed to facilitate formal author-guided open peer review to manuscripts “published” (as in made public) anywhere: preprint archives, institutional repositories and even personal websites and blogs. Open reviews become an integral part of the manuscript that can be updated and submitted to any journal. As Mike demonstrates it’s free and there are only benefits involved for researchers and the scientific quality in general.

    Thanks Mike for showing the way and for sharing your experience!

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    Sounds good — I’ll look into LIBRE when I get a moment.

  3. I know there are differences between fields, but I have a joint paper that’s been in submission for 10 months (to a high-quality society journal), and the (very helpful and friendly) editor explained this was because there was difficulty finding a referee who would do a proper review. And 10 months is not terribly unusual in mathematics…

  4. Dean Says:

    “Barosaurus” possibly a brachiosaur? Elaborate please!

  5. Mike Taylor Says:

    We don’t say that Barosaurus is probably a brachiosaur. There’s loads of good evidence that it’s a diplodocine, and phylogenetic analyses have been unanimous on that point.

    What we say is that aspects of Vertebra R of the holotype — when considered in isolation, and before considering damage — resemble what you’d expect to see in a brachiosaur. The resemblance is real, but as the paper explains illusory.

  6. Dean Says:

    Does that imply Barosaurus had a neck evolved for high browsing?

  7. Mike Taylor Says:

    Lull (1919) thought so; we don’t. See the Discussion section of the preprint.

  8. […] a preprint to PeerJ PrePrints (which is a smashing way of getting fast feedback, or at least it was for us), that manuscript can be published in PeerJ for free, as long as it is formally submitted before […]

  9. […] my colleagues doing without really thinking about it. One result is that our neck-anatomy paper was needlessly held up for more than four years. No-one benefits from these delays. They are a completely avoidable net loss for […]

  10. […] jobs in the very near future will be getting the Barosaurus revised in accordance with the very helpful reviews that we received, and then also submitted for peer-review. We do still want that “we went through […]

  11. […] Nothing in this talk will be new to regular SV-POW! readers, but he makes good, compelling points in favour of preprinting (which we of course agree with!) […]

  12. […] as a preprint because we wanted to get feedback as quickly as possible. We certainly got it: four very long detailed comments that were more helpful than most formally solicited peer-reviews that I’ve had. (It’s […]

  13. […] formal review; but I was so scared of letting it brew for years, as we’re still doing with the Barosaurus preprint to our shame, that I submitted it […]

  14. […] a long-standing proponent of preprints, it bothers that of all PeerJ’s preprints, by far the one that has had […]

  15. […] in less than three weeks. Very quickly, the preprint attracted substantive, helpful reviews: three within the first 24 hours, and several more in the next few […]

  16. […] we submitted as a preprint less than a month after the conference. The preprint quickly garnered amazingly helpful comments, which we used to extensively revise the […]

  17. […] when Mike and I posted our Barosaurus preprint and got substantive, unsolicited review comments in just a day or two, that was pretty awesome. Which is why I did not […]

  18. […] new world that we’re creating together, I am starting to come to the conclusion that — with some delightful exceptions — peer-review is generally only going to happen when it’s explicitly solicited by a […]

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