Peer Review: Questions and Answers

What are Nordic CompBio Peer Reviews? 

Nordic CompBio (NCB) Peer Reviews brings together scientists from Nordic countries to review each other’s work, share valuable input and criticism and develop meaningful exchange and collaborations across the computational biology community. Participants can submit their work (papers, figures, chapters, analyses, pipelines, teaching material and other) to get feedback from fellow experts in the field. Other participants will review the work and thereby develop their reviewing skills, learn about adjacent fields, and learn about alternative approaches applied to their own fields.

What is not covered?

NCB Peer Reviews does not aim to replace stackoverflow, Biostars or SEQanswers. These are the ideal platform for specific coding problems. We want to provide high-level feedback on computational issues, similar to the feedback you would get from a journal that is specialized in bioinformatics or computational biology. Similarly, the peer review is not a proof-reading service and should exclusively focus on content. The main difference to a journal review procedure is that more extensive feedback for improvement is provided and scientific novelty is not a requirement.

How does the give and take work?

The initiative lives from a give-and-take approach. All reviewees should eventually also join the reviewer pool and give their expertise to the community. Naturally, junior and early-career scientists can submit more before we expect reviewer activity in return. Senior researchers should balance their submissions and work as reviewers or even review slightly more than they submit.

How does the review work?

As in normal reviews the reviewers examine the work and give constructive criticism, feedback and suggestions. The reviewers prepare a reply to the reviewees detailing their comments. In special cases, reviewees may have specific requests for feedback that should be addressed if possible. Otherwise reviewers are free in their task. They can focus on specific areas where they see the most space for improvement or where they have the greatest expertise but they should ideally aim to comment on all aspects of the work.

Check here for reviewer sign-up and guidelines.

How long is the reviewing process?

The standard length for a review is not longer than one month from time of submission, however the reviewee and the reviewer can agree on a different time, i.e. when the reviewer anticipates that the review will take longer or when feedback is urgent. Alternative timelines should be communicated to the NCB core team.

How is my personal data protected?

All personal data is accessible to the NCB core team only. The Nordic CompBio follows the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). All personal data will be used for the purpose of the review initiative only.  Participants can request that their personal data shall be deleted at any time.

Which topics are covered?

NCB Peer Reviews aims to cover the whole range of computational biology, from proteomics and transcriptomics, over structural biology and imaging, to systems biology and modeling. All aspects of computational work are included in the scope of this initiative, such as design, preprocessing, quality control, filtering, dimensionality reduction, advanced statistics, simulations, modeling, software development, reproducibility, and more.

Who can participate?

In our NCB Peer Reviews pilot phase at SciLifeLab, all bioinformaticians and computational biologists who are affiliated to SciLifeLab can participate. Preferably, participants are experienced in their field and can act as reviewers as well. PhD candidates are also highly encouraged to submit their work and review in their later years. In the long run, we aim to expand the initiative to all Nordic regions.

How do submissions work?

Scientists can submit different aspect of their work (papers, figures, chapters, analyses, pipelines, teaching material and other) in predefined commonly used and easy to access formats – e.g. papers or figures should be provided as PDFs, pipelines should ideally be provided as flow-charts or pseudo-code. All submissions need to be well explained and annotated or truly self-explanatory. For instance, figures need to have good figure legends and descriptions; pseudo-code needs to be well commented. The reviewee can make a reasonable request for the review, e.g. if feedback is desired on a specific aspect of the work such as the data preprocessing or the use of statistics. All submissions should contain a brief abstract and keywords for the reviewer selection.

Check here for submission form and guidelines.

How are reviewers assigned?

Submissions are collected, and the abstracts and information about the format and length of the submissions are sent out to all suitable reviewers. Reviewers can then indicate their interest and availability. When a match between submission and reviewer is found, the NCB core team initiates the reviewing procedure and puts the participants in contact.

How is my intellectual property protected?

All reviewers agree on the code of conduct that includes not to disclose the content of reviews to others, or use unique or novel ideas of others for their own work. In addition we enable redacted submissions and you decide on which part of your work to submit. For instance gene names or exact perturbations can be anonymized as “gene x”  and “perturbation y” respectively and you can also remove some parts of your work before submission. The submissions are only visible to the selected reviewer(s) and the NCB core team and treated confidentially. Submissions are only stored for the time of the review plus an extra month for potential follow-ups.

What happens if there is no suitable reviewer available?

We will contact you if no reviewer with suitable competence is available for review within one month. You will then have the option to resubmit your work. To increase the likelihood of finding a matching reviewer, we suggest that the abstract and keywords are adjusted to reach a broader group of potential reviewers.

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