Innovation in Scholarly Communication: Beyond Open Access – An Introduction to F1000’s post-publication, open peer review publishing platform

Guest blog by Liz Allen, Director of Strategic Initiatives at F1000, and a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Policy Institute, KCL and Molly Cranston, Senior Associate Editor at F1000

The world of scholarly publishing is undergoing somewhat of a revolution. Many current and legacy scholarly publishing systems are known to be outmoded, dependent upon complex, time-consuming processes that are largely non-transparent, and thought to be a significant cause of inefficiencies in research and funding waste[1],[2].In a world of the web, where space restrictions largely disappear, there is a demand for more rapid and fuller access to research findings.  Alongside this, research funder and institution requirements for publicly-funded research findings to be openly available are becoming more strident; Plan S[3] is the most recent example of this, announcing that a number of major public research funding agencies across Europe (including the EC and UKRI) will fund only the publication of articles that will be made immediately (gold) Open Access (OA) from 2020.

There are many new scholarly publishing initiatives underway that are entirely compatible with these new demands for research sharing. For example, there has been a massive increase in the number of ‘preprint’ articles posted across a growing number of discipline specific pre-print servers; Crossref estimate a 20% growth in the number of preprints being posted over the last 2 years compared to traditional research article growth of 2-3% for the same period[4]. In 2013, F1000 launched F1000Research, the world’s first open research publishing platform, combining the ability to publish rapidly with functionality to ensure greater transparency, robustness and reproducibility of research. Importantly, and uniquely, F1000Research provides open, invited peer review that occurs after publication.

How does F1000Research work?

In a nutshell, F1000Research combines the benefits of pre-printing (providing rapid publication) with expert, invited peer review (providing quality assurance). Open peer review is not an essential feature of a post-publication, peer review model and there are many flavours of open peer review[5].  However, F1000Research chose to adopt perhaps the purest version of open peer review being used by scholarly publishers today – requiring the names of the reviewers and their reviews to be published alongside the article.

For F1000Research the purpose of peer review is to validate and improve the research being shared; peer review helps authors to improve the quality and presentation of their work, and provides readers with context to support understanding and potential use and re-use. To do this most effectively requires full transparency and openness, and it is for this reason that open peer review is now commonly described as a ‘pillar’ of open science[6].

When an article is submitted to F1000Research, after undergoing rapid author and content quality assurance checks (e.g. plagiarism; ethical approvals; adherence to our open data policy) by the in-house editorial team, the article is published (see Figure 1 for an overview of the process). Publication of an article triggers formal, invited expert peer review; peer reviewers are identified by the authors, and this process can be assisted by a combination of subject-driven algorithms[7] that F1000 provides. All reviewer selection is verified independently by the F1000 editorial team and reviewers must meet stringent criteria to be deemed eligible to review (e.g. appropriate subject and/or methods expertise; no competing interests).

Peer reviewers are required to make one of three determinations: approved, approved with reservations, or not approved – if an article is not approved it remains published.  Reviewers must also provide a narrative report, which appears online alongside the article, together with reviewer names and affiliations.  Recently published articles undergoing peer review are clearly labelled ‘Awaiting peer review’.

Full transparency of the peer review, together with an ability to cite reviewer reports independently of the article provides a route for reviewers to gain credit and recognition for their time and contribution to the work of others and science more broadly[8].

Figure 1: Overview of F1000’s post-publication, open peer review publishing model


Authors respond openly to reviewer comments and this typically results in the submission of a revised version, together with a short summary of the changes. To ensure the peer review status (and version) of any article is always immediately obvious, we include a dynamic citation format that includes both the version number and the peer review status in the title of the article.

All content published is immediately gold OA and licenced by the authors under Creative Commons licenses (CC-BY for articles or CC0 for research data) without charge for others to view and access. The CC-BY licence permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction provided that the work is properly cited and all copyright remains with the original copyright holder. Peer reviewer reports are also published under a CC BY license.

Articles are indexed in PubMed, Medline, Scopus and other bibliographic indexers that select journals on the basis of the quality of publications. Only articles published on F1000Research that have received two approved or one approved and two approved with reservations determinations by reviewers are indexed.

Bringing innovation to the ‘article’ format

F1000Research encourages the publication of all research, whether that be full research articles, small studies, negative/null findings, data and software articles or case reports. To reflect that, a variety of article types, from Research, Method and Review articles, to Software Tool articles and Data Notes are available[9].

Publishing online allows journals to move away from the physical limitations that print journals encounter and F1000Research supports a number of ways to present dynamic content. Most recently we have partnered with plotly, allowing users to create interactive figures[10], which helps present data

in a more accessible way for readers. Similarly, Code Ocean widgets permit readers to run the code and analysis contained in the article, ensuring reproducibility.

For those authors already familiar with LaTeX, we encourage submissions via Overleaf, allowing submission straight from Overleaf projects to F1000Research, which is especially useful for those articles with code that require proper syntax highlighting.

F1000 also offers F1000Workspace, a reference manager whose Word plugin allows you to insert citations and submit directly to F1000Research at the click of a button[11].

Working alongside research funding agencies and institutions

The volume of articles published on F1000Research continues to grow year on year and F1000 is now working with a number of high profile funding agencies, research institutions and organisations across the world (including the Wellcome Trust[12], Gates Foundation[13], and the African Academy of Sciences[14]) to provide open research and data publishing services for the researcher community they support.  In working with us, F1000’s clients share our common high-level goals: to remove unnecessary delays and barriers that researchers face when sharing their research findings, and, to accelerate the use and potential impact of that research.

Importantly, F1000 also provides a transparent and cost-effective route to achieving immediate (gold) OA, one that removes the burden of article payment and management from the publishing authors, their research institutions and libraries, as well as removing subscription costs from the whole system.

But open access is not, nor should be, the goal; making research findings open and accessible improves the chances of that research being used by a myriad of audiences and maximising the ‘return’ on the funding invested in the first place.

Further information about the F1000Research publishing model can be found here.

F1000Research’s editorial office can be contacted through



[1] See for example: Munafo, M. R. et al (2017) A Manifesto for Reproducible Science.  Nature 0021

[2] Series from the Lancet journals: Research; increasing value, reducing waste

[3] Coaltion S: Making Open Access a reality by 2020

[4] Crossref blog: Preprints growth rate ten times higher than journal articles

[5] F1000 Research: What is open peer review? A systematic review

[6] See for example: Foster Open Science

[7] F1000 has developed a sophisticated peer review identification tool – Peersguru, which is embedded into all F1000 peer review services and which other organisations are using to support peer review identification for research articles and also for grant funding decisions.  Find out more about it.

[8] All peer review reports are assigned a DOI on publication, allowing them to be cited and uploaded to a reviewer’s ORCiD profile.

[9] F1000 article guidelines

[10] Read more about interactive figures on our blog

[11] Currently we are offering one free publication on F1000Research for articles submitted using the F1000Workspace plugin

[12] Wellcome Open Research

[13] Gates Open Research

[14] AAS Open Research


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