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Letter
Peer-Review Record

On the Potential of Preprints in Geochemistry: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Sustainability 2020, 12(8), 3360; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12083360
Reviewer 1: Anonymous
Reviewer 2: Anonymous
Reviewer 3: Anonymous
Sustainability 2020, 12(8), 3360; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12083360
Received: 24 March 2020 / Revised: 11 April 2020 / Accepted: 15 April 2020 / Published: 21 April 2020

Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report

The subject of the paper is interesting. The problem is that the manuscript has a considerable number of weaknesses. The manuscript has no structure and it is not written in the form of a scientific essay. Specifically, the abstract is just the first part of paper and it does not give an overall idea of the content of the paper. Thus, is also included references and it refers to figure 1. Figure 2 is the bottom half of a figure of paper published at the Publication Journal. The paper presents some interesting arguments but in many cases those arguments are not supported by any scientific references. This work is at a very early stage of development. It needs to be enhanced, enriched and organized appropriately in order to be considered for publication to the Sustainability Journal.

Author Response

See round 2

Reviewer 2 Report

It's wonderful to see an article in support of the use of pre-prints as a way to distribute scientific knowledge openly, without any barriers to access.  So, for that, I applaud you for writing this.

In general, this appears to primarily be more of an overview of pre-print servers/distribution networks than an examination of the use of preprints in geochemistry. I'd like to see you do more of an integration of your examination of the "good, the bad, and the ugly" uses of preprints in geochemistry throughout the article.  As it stands now, you spend much more time giving an overview of preprint pros and cons generally than addressing your discipline.  Of course, you need to define pre-prints and pre-print distribution networks, but then I think you can dive right in to the specifics.  Perhaps turning the pros and cons of pre-print distribution to pros and cons for your discipline rather than just for the general scholarly community at large.

Here are some specific issues I had/revisions I'd like to see:

  • Strengthen your more general statements with citations. (For instance, how do you define a "low merit study"?). 
  • While it is true that the act of posting a preprint online in an open access platform would constitute "publishing" that preprint, Open Access advocates, copyright experts, and publishers are still grappling with the distinction between posting something online and "publishing".  arXiv does not define itself as a preprint publisher, but rather as a free distribution service and open access archive.  So, I'd be careful about how you use the term "publishing".
  • A post-print (the final, peer-reviewed manuscript) also falls under the umbrella of e-print.  Also, I would remove "published" from that definition.  Pre- and post-prints do not have to be published (read: distributed) in order to be a pre- or post-print.  
  • Who is the strong community of "early adopters" that you refer to at the end of page one?  
  • I'd get rid of the bullet point "far simpler to use than publishing submission portals" (p.3 - this is extremely subjective).
  • How does the preprint model increase the scientific community's responsibility by not legitimizing preprint publications that lack scientific rigour?  Do you have any kind of specific example?  Isn't the burden always on the readers whether or not research has been peer-reviewed?
  • Who are the researchers who have argued that preprints are no different from other grey literature?  Do you have a source for this?
  • You define preprints, but mention postprints in passing without definition.
  • You need more of a conclusion.  I remain unconvincedf.

Author Response

Dear Editors,

Herein is our response to reviewers. We are deeply grateful for their time and input, and have included virtually all of their suggestions. Our comments are provided in bold.

Reviewer 1

It's wonderful to see an article in support of the use of pre-prints as a way to distribute scientific knowledge openly, without any barriers to access.  So, for that, I applaud you for writing this.

Thank you!

In general, this appears to primarily be more of an overview of pre-print servers/distribution networks than an examination of the use of preprints in geochemistry. I'd like to see you do more of an integration of your examination of the "good, the bad, and the ugly" uses of preprints in geochemistry throughout the article.  As it stands now, you spend much more time giving an overview of preprint pros and cons generally than addressing your discipline.  Of course, you need to define pre-prints and pre-print distribution networks, but then I think you can dive right in to the specifics.  Perhaps turning the pros and cons of pre-print distribution to pros and cons for your discipline rather than just for the general scholarly community at large.

We would love to have a more in-depth discussion of preprints in Geochemistry. However, the sad reality is that we have virtually no data or information to go off, besides our own experiences. The potential problems for Geochemistry with preprints are similar to those of the wider Earth Science community, however, and thus we have remained quite general here for now. We note that we are only writing a Letter here, and there is much more scope for developments in the future, and evaluation of those developments as they occur. Irrespective, throughout the MS now, we have attempted to convey more specifics for the community, as well as indicate gaps in our current understanding.

Here are some specific issues I had/revisions I'd like to see:

  • Strengthen your more general statements with citations. (For instance, how do you define a "low merit study"?). 

Edited.

  • While it is true that the act of posting a preprint online in an open access platform would constitute "publishing" that preprint, Open Access advocates, copyright experts, and publishers are still grappling with the distinction between posting something online and "publishing".  arXiv does not define itself as a preprint publisher, but rather as a free distribution service and open access archive.  So, I'd be careful about how you use the term "publishing".

We have changed this throughout to indicate ‘sharing’.

  • A post-print (the final, peer-reviewed manuscript) also falls under the umbrella of e-print.  Also, I would remove "published" from that definition.  Pre- and post-prints do not have to be published (read: distributed) in order to be a pre- or post-print. 

Edited. 

  • Who is the strong community of "early adopters" that you refer to at the end of page one?  

I wish we knew! Further research required.

  • I'd get rid of the bullet point "far simpler to use than publishing submission portals" (p.3 - this is extremely subjective).

Edited.

  • How does the preprint model increase the scientific community's responsibility by not legitimizing preprint publications that lack scientific rigour?  Do you have any kind of specific example?  Isn't the burden always on the readers whether or not research has been peer-reviewed?

Yes, exactly! We have made this clearer now.

  • Who are the researchers who have argued that preprints are no different from other grey literature?  Do you have a source for this?

Anecdotal evidence, mostly. We have lots of grey literature we could cite on this matter…

  • You define preprints, but mention postprints in passing without definition.

Edited.

  • You need more of a conclusion.  I remain unconvinced.

Extended.

Reviewer 3 Report

Paper has started with no objective as well as no research issue. If the authors wished to find the use of preprints by Geochemists, that should be clearly mentioned. 

No subheadings were given. The abstract should summarize the subsequent sections.

Figure 1 is a monthly stat or yearly stat? What is the number -6 next to each year?

Materials and methods were not clear. Especially they have to mention the following

  1. What are the preprint servers they sued to search?
  2. What search terms/ keywords used to get the result?
  3.  They have compared with the number of articles published in the particular discipline. For this purposes what are the databases used? When was the search done?
  4. Though there are several merits, authors of this area of research have not much-used preprint servers. Conclusions should highlight the results. Also, the reasons (factors) should be explored thoroughly. Or this can be recommended for future researchers.

Author Response

Dear Editors,

Herein is our response to reviewers. We are deeply grateful for their time and input, and have included virtually all of their suggestions. Our comments are provided in bold.

 

Reviewer 2

Paper has started with no objective as well as no research issue. If the authors wished to find the use of preprints by Geochemists, that should be clearly mentioned. 

This is only intended as a short letter, but this problem has been noted.

No subheadings were given. The abstract should summarize the subsequent sections.

This article is only a short letter.

Figure 1 is a monthly stat or yearly stat? What is the number -6 next to each year?

Materials and methods were not clear. Especially they have to mention the following

  1. What are the preprint servers they sued to search?
  2.  
  3.  
  4. Though there are several merits, authors of this area of research have not much-used preprint servers. Conclusions should highlight the results. Also, the reasons (factors) should be explored thoroughly. Or this can be recommended for future researchers.

We have edited this throughout now.

 

 

Round 2

Reviewer 1 Report

I believe that most of the issues I have noted (concerning the structure) in the first round of my review of the manuscript have not been addressed. 

Author Response

We apologize, but we submitted the revised version of our paper before receiving reviewer comments.

To answer reviewer comments, we are agree that we did follow the classical structure of an article. But this paper is a short letter that did not need to follow such structure.

We hope you will understand.

Reviewer 2 Report

First, thank you for incorporating so many of the suggestions made in the first round of peer review!  I think that the current version is much improved and the content now better matches what I'd assumed I'd read based on the title (specifically, on the specific mention of geosciences).  Had you not mentioned geosciences in your title, I would have expected a non-subject specific overview.

Just a few wordsmithing comments:

  • in general, try and avoid the word "seems".  It weakens your argument by not making concrete, affirmative statements.  You can have a very strong sentence, but that "seems" will immediately reduce its impact.
  • Line 22 - Since then, and a After about a 15 year hiatus,...
  • Line 25 - replace "cross-domain" with "interdisciplinary"
  • Line 33 - current wording reads awkwardly, what about "Indonesian language earth science research"?
  • Line 70 - I still think this point is highly subjective.  I didn't like it in the first draft, and I still don't like it.  
  • Line 74 - may replace "poor quality" with "non-reproducible"?  I understand what you're trying to say, but "poor quality" still feels highly subjective.
  • re: your discussion of citation issues at the top of page 4 - perhaps this is an opportunity to make a call for standardized citation practices when it comes to pre-prints?

Also, your conclusion is much better in this version.  The last one just kind of petered out, but now you're stating something!

Author Response

Dear Reviewer

Herein is our response. Our comments are provided in bold.

First, thank you for incorporating so many of the suggestions made in the first round of peer review!  I think that the current version is much improved and the content now better matches what I'd assumed I'd read based on the title (specifically, on the specific mention of geosciences).  Had you not mentioned geosciences in your title, I would have expected a non-subject specific overview.

We are deeply grateful for your time and input, and have included virtually all of your suggestions.

Just a few wordsmithing comments:

  • in general, try and avoid the word "seems".  It weakens your argument by not making concrete, affirmative statements.  You can have a very strong sentence, but that "seems" will immediately reduce its impact.

We have made change accordingly.

  • Line 22 - Since then, and a After about a 15 year hiatus,...

Modified.

  • Line 25 - replace "cross-domain" with "interdisciplinary"

Modified.

  • Line 33 - current wording reads awkwardly, what about "Indonesian language earth science research"?

Modified.

  • Line 70 - I still think this point is highly subjective.  I didn't like it in the first draft, and I still don't like it.  

The sentence is now removed.

 

  • Line 74 - may replace "poor quality" with "non-reproducible"?  I understand what you're trying to say, but "poor quality" still feels highly subjective.

Modified.

  • re: your discussion of citation issues at the top of page 4 - perhaps this is an opportunity to make a call for standardized citation practices when it comes to pre-prints?

We agree but it is an issue we plan to develop in another article.

Also, your conclusion is much better in this version.  The last one just kind of petered out, but now you're stating something!

Thank you

 

 

 

 

Reviewer 3 Report

Did a few changes as suggested. It's good to recommend future researchers to explore the factors behind the slower usage of preprint servers. 

Author Response

Thank you.

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