Organization of the peer review

State of the Planet (SP) is organized as a journal but bibliographically classified as a report series. Within SP, each report has its own set of editors for transparent, interactive peer review and is published as a separated volume. Therefore, editors are not serving SP on a regular basis.

Process of peer review and publication

The process of peer review and publication in State of the Planet (SP) differs from traditional scientific journals to enhance quality by transparency. It involves a discussion stage, where report chapters are posted as preprints featuring public commenting by invited 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 and community comments 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 SP.

The process follows the following steps:

Manuscript submission

Within a report (special issue), authors submit their report chapter as a manuscript. Please find detailed information on the submission instructions page.

Identification of handling topic editor

Each report brings its own set of topic editors serving as guest editors for SP. These guest editors are invited to accept the handling of the peer-review process of an individual report chapter submitted as manuscript.

Access review

The handling topic editor evaluates whether the manuscript meets the report's criteria for scientific quality. They can suggest technical corrections (typing errors, clarification of figures, adequate provision of access to data and software, etc.) before posting the manuscript of a report chapter as preprint in SPD. 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 handling topic editor invites at least 2 (typically 3-5) reviewers to provide referee reports. Copernicus Publications checks the manuscript for plagiarism.

Discussion of preprint (SPD, 4 weeks)

Following the access decision, the report chapter's 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 State of the Planet Discussions (SPD). 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 everybody else.

After 4 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.

Peer-review completion

The authors must provide a response to all comments during the open discussion or at most 2 weeks after. Formal editorial recommendations and decisions shall be made only after the authors have had an opportunity to respond to all comments. The handling topic editor will make a decision based on all comments made, not only those by the reviewers, and any revised manuscript uploaded after the end of the discussion period.

Based on the authors’ response, the handling topic editor may

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

The topic editor may also 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 editor(s) in chief of the report.

Publication of final revised article in SP

In the case of acceptance, the final revised paper is copy-edited for English, typeset, and proofread. Then it is published on the SP website with a direct link to the preceding preprint and interactive discussion in SPD. 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 SPD and cannot be withdrawn.

Types of comments in SPD

In the interactive public discussion in SPD, 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 editorial board of the corresponding report reserves the right to exclude abusive commentators.

All comments are fully citable, paginated, and archived as a supplement to SPD. 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.

After the open discussion

After the open discussion, no more community comments and referee comments can be accepted. However, the contact author and the topic editor of the manuscript in discussion have the opportunity to post final author comments and editor comments. Following conclusion of the discussion period, 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 made during the discussion phase and a copy of the manuscript that highlights the changes made. The 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).

The timings indicated above are a guideline which may have to be modified according to the availability and response times of editors, referees, and authors.

Chart of the Interactive Public Peer ReviewTM

Review process

  1. 1. Submission
  2. 2. Access review
  3. 3. Technical corrections
  4. 4. MS posted in SPD forum
  5. 5. Comments
  6. 6. Final response
  7. 7. Post-discussion editor decision
  8. 8. Revision
  9. 9. Peer-review completion
  10. 10. Final revised publication