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Report – PLOS iGEM Realtime Peer Review Jamboree

Peer Review Week 2017, 11 – 17 September, explores Transparency in Review, a topic that will allow the community to explore a wide range of opportunities and challenges that this presents for peer review. The PLOS iGEM Realtime Peer Review Jamboree experimented in live peer review of iGEM project write-ups with authors and reviewers directly interacting to improve teams’ submissions.


Saturday 28th January saw the first ever PLOS iGEM Realtime Peer Review Jamboree – so how did it work and was it a success?

Last year saw the launch of the first PLOS iGEM Collection, a project which included an experiment in early posting and open community review. In the second year we tried something even more innovative – holding a live peer review event where authors and reviewers could comment and discuss submissions in real time, responding to questions and critiques in a constructive and positive environment.

The project was inspired by Biotreks, a synthetic biology journal for high schoolers, and powered by the Breezio platform, which allows commenting and inline discussion around pieces of content. iGEM teams – at high school, undergrad and graduate level – had been able to use the platform to collaboratively author reports of their iGEM projects and, after editorial checks by PLOS staff, the event – or Jamboree – was held on Saturday. During the event, numerous people, some associated with iGEM teams, some PLOS staffers and many who were just interested in synthetic biology and/or peer review, logged on to give feedback on the papers. Given that open community review has not always been the easiest thing to achieve, the numbers were quite startling:

There were 21 submissions in total from around the world:

Global distribution of submissions to the PLOS iGEM Realtime Peer Review Jamboree
Global distribution of submissions to the PLOS iGEM Realtime Peer Review Jamboree

73 people from 17 countries took part on the day:

Global participation during the PLOS iGEM Realtime Peer Review Jamboree
Global participation during the PLOS iGEM Realtime Peer Review Jamboree

67% of users that logged in left at least one of a total 384 comments and took part in 35 inline conversations per hour during the event:


An example discussion from the Jamboree around this submission.
An example discussion from the Jamboree around this submission.

And there was some great feedback after the event:

  • “Thanks to all of you for your constructive feedback. This has been a very good lesson in scientific writing for us!”
  • “Thanks very much to everyone who left comments on our work. Thanks to PLOS Collections for giving the UofC Calgary team the opportunity to share what we learned while working on our 2016 iGEM project.”
  • “Thanks to the entire PLOS team and to all who participated! It was a great learning experience for everyone.”
  • “Thank you everyone for this experience and this opportunity!”

The first PLOS iGEM Realtime Peer Review Jamboree proved to be a great success in fostering open communication to improve scientific reporting. With citizens of 17 countries taking part and almost 400 comments on 21 submissions, it showed the global nature of science, and how providing an open platform and the correct tools, and by encouraging constructive and positive feedback and debate, open community review can be a great success. Whilst the comments and discussion may not constitute the rigour of full peer review, we believe that they will 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.

What Happens Next?

iGEM teams now have four weeks to revise their submissions in line with the feedback they received during the Jamboree. Once they have updated their papers, they have the option to submit to PLOS ONE should their work meet the journal’s criteria for publication, or they can ask for it to be posted on the PLOS Collections Blog. All submissions will be included in the PLOS iGEM 2016 Collection.

And, of course, PLOS and iGEM will continue to experiment and collaborate around open science communication – we look forward to iGEM 2017!

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