A Workflow for Open Peer Review: Case Study UCL Press

Peer review is a key element of scholarly publishing, but for the past decade the research community has struggled to move beyond the black box and develop new open models of research evaluation. University College London and UCL Press would like to change that. Since the beginning, ScienceOpen has been committed to open peer review – now offering post-publication review options for over 62 million articles and preprints. So, with the vision of a university-led publishing platform based on open review principles, UCL Press teamed up with ScienceOpen to create the journal “UCL Open: Environment”.

UCL Open: Environment – an open publishing model in practice

The new journal required a new open peer review workflow. UCL spent significant time interviewing members of their research community on their needs and expectations. Editorial oversight and control were high priority, as was rapid publishing of research. The result has been a two-step model.

Manuscript submission and preprint publication

In the current UCL workflow, the author submits a manuscript and then the Editor-in-Chief reads the submission and makes a decision on whether it meets the minimum standards for peer review. If the EiC accepts the manuscript, it is published immediately as a preprint with a Crossref preprint DOI and integrated with ORCID. The preprint flag indicates that this research has not yet been peer-reviewed. During this stage the editors invite reviewers and the authors and readers are also encouraged to invite experts to review the work.


Reviews are published openly to provide context about the reviewer’s publication history and areas of expertise, but to also inform the readers of any valuable insights and comments of the submitted work. Authors are then encouraged to respond openly to the reviewer’s comments and submit a revised preprint. The editors act as a central mediator between the reviewers comments and author responses, clarifying what is needed for revision to improve the work. This cycle can be repeated multiple times until the editorial team is satisfied that a rigorous, independent peer evaluation has been conducted and the authors have improved their submission according to the expert recommendations that they received. You can read here more about the journal’s aims and editorial processes.

After the peer review

After an editorial decision of “Accept”, the final version of the manuscript is professionally copy-edited, typeset and published on the UCL Open platform powered by ScienceOpen. Its “version history” links it to the previous preprint versions to create a transparent process at every step. The final version can be read, shared, recommended and reviewed with one click on the platform. ScienceOpen also manages the delivery of metadata to Crossref, Google Scholar, DOAJ, PubMed Central and further services.

Researcher networks on ScienceOpen

The rich discovery environment of ScienceOpen provides support in finding expert reviewers. A new interface launching shortly allows editors, authors and researchers to explore profiles of registered users, sorting based on affiliation, keywords, publication numbers and more. A search for similar articles can also be a fruitful way to discover potential reviewers. Or just add the e-mail address of a colleague to quickly and smoothly invite reviewers. Editors have an overview of all the reviewers invited via a review dashboard.

The technological backbone

The peer review infrastructure of ScienceOpen was carefully crafted in 2013 with the help of nearly 100 board members, editors, reviewers, peer review experts, and researchers. Any registered researcher qualified by 5 peer-reviewed publications linked to their ORCID ID can review any preprint or article (post-publication) on the ScienceOpen platform. Peer review reports receive a Crossref DOI and are added to the author’s ORCID profile. They can be searched for, recommended and shared.

As a proof-of-concept, 7 articles have already been processed through this workflow with more underway in the preprint stage.

“Only by sharing academic research as openly and widely as possible – with, for example, researchers, educators, students, policymakers, partners and members of the public – can its benefits to humanity be maximised. We are delighted to have worked with ScienceOpen to develop this innivative open peer review process. I look forward to continue working with the Editors of the jorunal, our authors and reviewers, and with ScienceOpen.”

Ian Caswell, Journals Manager of UCL Press


Publishers interested in learning more about the challenges and rewards of open peer review, or about a cooperation with ScienceOpen on publishing and peer review infrastructure, should contact Ian Caswell of UCL Press and Stephanie Dawson of ScienceOpen.

1 thought on “A Workflow for Open Peer Review: Case Study UCL Press”

  1. Unfortunately, what you are advocating can be construed as “MOB PEER REVIEW”. Any imbecile would be able to review a paper which may not be what every imbecile considers good science. If the current peer review system was working, we would have a cure and a vaccine for SARS-COV-2 infection. Gregor Mendel’s paper was not published in any of the so called top journals. It was read at a meeting. Albert Einstein’s paper on the General Theory of Relativity was not published in any of the so called top journals. To Youyou’s paper on artemisinin was published in an obscure scientific journal in China. The current peer review system would have killed her paper. ScienceOpen has done a great job with publishing preprints without much restriction. Now ScienceOpen wants to validate scientific papers with its open peer review system which is not only “MOB PEER REVIEW” but also a form of “SCIENTIFIC CENSORSHIP”. Who are the people who decides what is good science and what is publishable science. What are their scientific qualifications? Scientific Researchers are supposed to be smart people. they can decide for themselves what is good science and what is bad science. ScienceOpen cannot have the cake and then eat it. ScienceOpen must choose whether ScienceOpen is open without restriction or a “censorship entity” that decides what is good science and bad science by publishing a manuscript a second time. ScienceOpen must let the Scientific Researchers decide for themselves what is good science and what is bad science. Otherwise ScienceOpen is better than any of the other commercial so called established journals driven by profits and not by science, including Science, Science Translational Medicine, Nature, Nature Medicine, Cell, Cell Medicine Reports, Lancet and the other journals that they run. Just like regular newspapers have a duty to report (even if they do not like what they are reporting) and inform, Scientific journals have a duty to publish (even if they do not like what they publish) scientific articles that inform and are useful to society in its largest sense. If the so called top journals were doing their job, we would not be in the mess we are in now with respect to SARS-COV-2 and COVID-19 which by the way is only the beginning. Read the Theory of Chaos! What is the real purpose of UCL Open and UCL Press if not to act as a large censorship entity and make profit. UCL Open and UCL Press must be honest about their intentions and put their cards on the table and not try to confuse the Scientific Researchers with yet another technological gimmick. New technology is supposed help Scientific Researchers communicate better. Unfortunately, what we are witnessing is a proliferation of “scientific publishing entities or jpurnals” run by post-docs instead of professional Scientific Researchers who are real experts and have experience, breath of philosophical and scientific knowledge.

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