Process of peer review and publication

The process of peer review and publication in the interactive scientific journal Earth System Science Data (ESSD) differs from traditional scientific journals to enhance quality by transparency. It involves a discussion stage, where public commenting on the submitted preprint is invited by the referees, authors, and other members of the scientific community. All participants are encouraged to stimulate further deliberation rather than simply defend their position. Authors are invited to take an active role in the debate by posting author comments as a response to referee comments and short comments of the scientific community as soon as possible in order to stimulate further discussion by interested scientists. The handling topic editor's request for revisions and final decision takes all comments into account.

In all cases, also if no additional comments from the scientific community are received, a full peer-review process in the traditional sense, albeit in a more transparent way, is assured before publication of a paper in ESSD.

The process follows the following steps:

Manuscript submission

Authors submit a manuscript. Please find detailed information on the submission instructions page.

Identification of handling topic editor

A subset of topic editors is invited by the chief editor based on matches between keywords selected from a menu by the authors and expertise keywords stored for the topic editors. The first topic editor to accept handling the article serves as the handling topic editor throughout the review process. If none of the topic editor accepts to handle the article within a few days, the chief editor is called upon. Further information can be found on the page on how to find an editor.

Access review

The handling topic editor evaluates whether the manuscript is within the scope of the journal and whether it meets basic scientific quality. In addition, the topic editor can suggest technical corrections (typing errors, clarification of figures, adequate provision of access to data and software, etc.) before posting in ESSDD. Further requests for revision of the scientific contents are not permitted at this stage of the review process but shall be expressed in the following open discussion state. In addition, the topic editor invites at least 2 (typically 3-5) reviewers to provide referee reports. Copernicus Publications checks the manuscript for plagiarism.

Open discussion (ESSDD, 5 weeks)

Following the access decision, the manuscript obtains a DOI and is displayed as a preprint. The preprint can be cited and serves as proof of priority. This is equivalent to an upload to preprint servers like arXiv, chemRxiv, or bioRxiv, except that the preprint has been checked for basic quality. The preprint platform is called Earth System Science Data Discussions (ESSDD). The preprint is not part of the final publication.

At this stage, which is called the discussion stage, everyone can comment on the preprint, but comments must be signed, i.e., may not be anonymous and commentators must log in. Only the invited reviewers have the choice to remain anonymous. The reports of invited reviewers and responses by the authors are public, as are the comments posted by the everybody else. Please note the further explanations about the types of comments and the review criteria.

After 5 weeks, the discussion is closed for reviewers and the public. It remains open for longer only if less than two reviewer reports have been obtained. The discussion trail remains publicly accessible as supplement to the preprint.

Final response after the open discussion

After the open discussion, no more community comments and referee comments can be accepted. The authors are now asked to provide a response to all comments posted during the open discussion. These author comments should be structured in a clear and easy-to-follow sequence: (1) comments from referees/public, (2) authors' response, and (3) authors' changes in manuscript. The response time is expected to be 2 weeks (can be extended to 4 weeks). In addition, the handling topic editor can also post editor comments.

After this final response, the authors are welcome to submit a revised version of the manuscript. The upload must be accompanied by a detailed description of the changes made in response to the comments posted during the discussion phase and a copy of the manuscript that highlights the changes made. The revised submission is the start of the peer-review completion.

Peer-review completion & final decision

If a revised version of the manuscript is submitted, the handling topic editor will take a decision considering the authors' final response and all comments made during the open discussion. The topic editor may

  • accept the manuscript for publication as is,
  • request revisions,
  • reject the manuscript.

The topic editor may request specific changes, re-engage the appointed reviewers, or engage new reviewers. At this stage, the process is as in conventional peer review, i.e., no longer public, but the exchange will be made public later together with the discussion trail, if the manuscript is accepted for publication. If the authors appeal the topic editor's decision, the case is reviewed by the chief editor. The peer-review completion ends with the final decision to accept or reject the revised manuscript.

Publication of final revised article in ESSD

In the case of acceptance, the final revised paper is copy-edited for English, typeset, and proofread. Then it is published on the ESSD website with a direct link to the preceding preprint and interactive discussion. In addition, all referee and editor reports, the authors' response, as well as the different manuscript versions of the peer-review completion will be published. All publications (preprint, interactive comments, final revised paper) are permanently archived and remain accessible to the public. Rejected manuscripts and the discussion/reviewing trail remain in the discussion forum and cannot be withdrawn.

Types of comments in ESSDD

In the interactive public discussion in ESSDD, the following types of interactive comments can be submitted for immediate non-peer-reviewed appearance alongside the preprint (manuscript in discussion):

  • Community comments (CCs) can be posted by any registered member of the scientific community (free online registration). Such comments are attributed, i.e. posted under the name of the commentator.
  • Referee comments (RCs) can only be posted by the referees involved in the peer review of the manuscript in discussion. They can be anonymous or attributed (according to the referee's preference).
  • Editor comments (ECs) can only be posted by the topic editor of the manuscript in discussion.
  • Author comments (ACs) can only be posted by the contact author of the manuscript in discussion on behalf of all co-authors. Co-authors can post CCs but not ACs.

The authors and topic editor of a manuscript in discussion are automatically informed via email about the appearance of comments in the interactive public discussion. Alert services are also available to other members of the scientific community. The interactive discussion is supervised but not actively moderated by the editors, who have the option of censoring comments that are not of substantial nature or of direct relevance to the issues raised in the manuscript in discussion or which contain personal insults. Authors are advised to follow the discussion of their preprint and to notify the Copernicus Publications Editorial Support and the handling topic editor in case of abusive comments. The ESSD editorial board reserves the right to exclude abusive commentators.

All comments are fully citable, paginated, and archived as a supplement to ESSDD. Comments can be composed by using the WYSIWYG editor for HTML content. More complex content can be uploaded as a *.pdf file and will be displayed as a supplement to the comment. Figures can directly be included in the comment.

Useful links

Chart of the Interactive Public Peer ReviewTM

Interactive Public Peer Review

  1. 1. Submission
  2. 2. Access review
  3. 3. Technical corrections
  4. 4. MS posted in ESSDD forum
  5. 5. Comments
  6. 6. Revision
  7. 7. Revised submission
  8. 8. Peer-review completion
  9. 9. Final revised publication