• Print

EMBO and ASAPbio to launch a pre-journal portable review platform


A multi-publisher partnership aims to streamline scientific publishing by producing refereed preprints


Heidelberg and San Francisco  September 30, 2019 — EMBO Press and ASAPbio have partnered to create Review Commons, a platform that peer-reviews research manuscripts in the life sciences before submission to a journal.  


Papers submitted to Review Commons, which will be launched in December 2019, will be assessed by expert referees without regard to any journal to which they might ultimately be submitted, and will be judged exclusively for their scientific rigor and merit. Review Commons will enable authors to publicly post the reviews and their own response to them on the preprint server bioRxiv and to submit their reviewed manuscript to an affiliated journal.


In the scholarly publishing process, reviewers typically evaluate manuscripts after submission to a journal. Beyond the requirement for technical rigor, editors and reviewers tend to be most concerned about whether the work meets the subjective criteria for the journal. If the work is rejected, the peer reviews are typically not reused by another journal. In this way, journal rejections across all fields waste an estimated 15 million hours of reviewer time each year and contribute to long publication delays for authors and readers.[1],[2]


Review Commons aims to accelerate and streamline the process of publishing by conducting high-quality, in-depth peer review of manuscripts before journal submission. Peer reviewers will be asked to evaluate the technical rigour of the work, make suggestions for improvements, and comment on the potential value of the work to specific communities. Authors can direct Review Commons to post reviews and their own responses to bioRxiv through the server’s new Transparent Review in Preprints (TRiP) project, where it will provide rich context for readers of their preprint. If authors decide to submit their work to a journal, it will allow editors to make efficient editorial decisions based on existing referee comments.


Review Commons will thus facilitate transfer of the manuscript, reviews, and responses to affiliate journals. A consortium of seventeen journals* across six publishers have joined the project by committing to use the Review Commons referee reports for their independent editorial decisions, and to seek minimal additional expert input. If the editors decide to reject the work, the authors can reuse the peer review evaluation for submission to additional journals. In this way, Review Commons reduces re-reviewing at multiple journals and accelerates publishing.


"We are pleased to have such a strong group of community-minded academic journals joining this ambitious project,” said Maria Leptin, Director of EMBO. “We share the desire to work with scientists to address important issues in peer review: transparency, objectivity, and efficiency."


Review Commons is supported by a grant to ASAPbio from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley

Charitable Trust and is operated by EMBO Press.


During an initial evaluation period, the partners will monitor the efficacy of the service and share results with the community in an effort to promote broader improvements to peer review. After this period, and as warranted by the evaluation outcomes, Review Commons could expand to include additional partners, both journals and preprint servers.


Review Commons has the potential to demonstrate a path toward a more open, time- and resource-efficient future for scholarly communication, as well as being compatible with the existing journals’ publishing system,” said Ron Vale, President of ASAPbio.


Review Commons website:



*Affiliate publishers and journals:


American Society for Cell Biology: Molecular Biology of the Cell

Company of Biologists: Development, Journal of Cell Science, Disease Models & Mechanisms, Biology Open

EMBO Press: The EMBO Journal, EMBO reports, Molecular Systems Biology, EMBO Molecular Medicine


Life Science Alliance

PLOS: PLOS Biology, PLOS Computational Biology, PLOS Genetics, PLOS Pathogens, PLOS ONE

Rockefeller University Press: Journal of Cell Biology


[1] Peer Review: How We Found 15 Million Hours of Lost Time | AJE. https://www.aje.com/arc/peer-review-process-15-million-hours-lost-time/. Accessed 26 Sept. 2019.

[2] Vale, Ronald D. “Accelerating Scientific Publication in Biology.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 112, no. 44, Nov. 2015, pp. 13439–46. www.pnas.org, doi:10.1073/pnas.1511912112.