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PLOS iGEM 2017 Collection – report

PLOS and the iGEM Foundation are pleased to announce the initial launch of the iGEM 2017 Collection. This initial release includes 9 papers submitted as preprints to bioRxiv; additional submissions will be added as they are published.

This year was PLOS and iGEM’s third year of partnership and our second holding the PLOS iGEM Realtime Peer Review Jamboree on the Breezio platform. The aim of the project is to increase the visibility and discoverability of iGEM projects, and to provide teams with an experience in scientific communication and peer review. Both PLOS and the iGEM Foundation aim to advance scientific communication through the development of open community collaboration. The organizations share a belief that all research should be openly available for anyone to read and reuse, and that scientific developments should not be held back by subjective questions about impact or novelty. But it is not just the final research output that is valuable to science, it is the entire scientific process from conception to publication and beyond. That’s why PLOS and iGEM believe strongly in open data and are keen to experiment in early posting and open peer review.

So how did it work?

Teams from the 2017 iGEM competition were invited to submit a write up of their project to the Realtime Peer Review Jamboree, with the option to write a traditional Research Article or a shorter, more flexibly structured Project Report. iGEM teams – at high school, undergrad and graduate level -= were able to use the Breezio platform to collaboratively author their reports. 17 submissions were made from 8 different countries:

Having undergone some initial checks by PLOS staff editors, the Realtime Peer Review Jamboree was held on February 23rd and, during the event, numerous people – iGEM teams and supervisors, PLOS staffers, synthetic biology experts and many just interested in peer review and advancing scientific communication – logged on to provide feedback and positive critique of the papers using the tools the Breezio platform provides, including inline discussions and comments.

The immediacy of feedback and discussion allows for a streamlined process – a straightforward clarification can be made in minutes rather than the longer time that traditional peer review can take. Whilst the comments and discussion may not constitute the rigour of full peer review, they really help the teams improve their papers, plus we truly hope it was a very positive experience for everyone who took part, especially for those for whom this was a first experience of peer review; because the platform allows open, community review, and reviewers and authors can converse directly, it leads to a positive and constructive discouse. With the papers now available on bioRxiv, we hope they will become a part of the literature and, of course, that other researchers will be able to build on the work done by iGEM teams. Each paper on bioRxiv is accompanied by a transcript of the discussions held during the Realtime Peer Review Jamboree as well as a response to reviewers by the authors – check out the supplementary information.

The numbers for our second year of this event were similar to last year, though we noticed an improvement in the quality of feedback and discussion.

The event in numbers:

During the day, there were 146 sessions from over 50 users located in 18 different countries, meaning participants from 10 countries who hadn’t had a team submit to the jamboree:

64% of users made at least one comment, of which there were 309 in total, including 102 chats initiated between teams and reviewers. 43% of users returned the next day to respond to questions or comments.

Check out the papers themselves on PLOS Collections.

We look forward to continued development of this project at iGEM 2018 and beyond. And should you wish to take part in a similar event, check out Biotreks, an online only synthetic biology conference specifically for high schools, on the Bioconverse platform, a free online community for the review and publication to high school and college synthetic biology research.

If you’d like to learn more about online community building, collaborative learning or online content collaboration and how live content review works please contact the Breezio team.

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