“Editorial assessment of relevancy, in particular at the pre-review stage, includes evaluations of journal-specific criteria: such as whether the work falls within the journal’s scope, adherence to technical guidelines, quality of the language and so on. But it also includes evaluation of whether the science is of interest to the journal. Indeed, a quick survey of various top biomedical journals’ guidelines—the “Aims and Scope” section to inform authors of the journal’s selection criteria—disclose that these aim to publish reports that are impactful, insightful, timely, elegant or “of surprising conclusions”, to name a few (www.nature.com/nature/journal-information). These vague terms are all subjective and thereby open to different interpretations by different individuals….
Pre-review editorial consideration is responsible for the vast majority of rejections, up to 90% in some journals (Laursen, 2021), which cannot simply be explained by lack of suitability, lack of adherence to journal guidelines or other objective criteria. Furthermore, pre-review editorial assessment usually does not consider inappropriate methodology, inaccurate conclusions or poor or incomplete analysis as these are typically handled by experts during the review stage.
Thus, it strongly implies that most initial rejections are based on subjective criteria that come on top of and overrule objective measures….
Pre-prints offer multiple benefits over journal-based publications by immediately exposing the science to a larger, more diverse audience, offer scooping protection, are citable and can still be submitted to traditional journals. Importantly, pre-prints are curated to a certain degree for completeness, quality, language and so forth, minimizing posting of subpar reports. The one major setback with this system is the poor engagement of the research community—so far only 5% of pre-prints have received comments although gradual increases are noted (Brainard, 2022). However, this scenario will necessarily change when the ball starts rolling….
Scientists already dedicate a substantial amount of their time towards reading manuscripts including pre-prints for their personal education and research, thus abandoning reviewing for journals would mean that they will have more time for commenting and reviewing the pre-prints they read anyway….
Removing editorial consideration from the publication process is not a panacea for all problems that plague science and publishing. But it would at least greatly reduce the subjectivity in the publication process and emancipate scientists from perpetual submissions–rejections rounds and from tiresome and lengthy review duties to assess if a paper is sufficiently “novel” and “relevant”. It would free scientists’ time to read and comment on pre-prints instead and make scientific research and findings accessible by anyone. This could engender a new culture of online commenting and reviewing and pave the way for new means of communication and interaction between scientists. For instance, posted manuscripts could be progressively modified or corrected in response to online comments, or other scientists could even post their own results alongside another pre-print in support or opposition to the results presented and their interpretation. This creates a scenario where smaller pieces of data—not enough to justify a full paper—can supplement other manuscripts, which actually reflects the “scientific endeavour” by allowing individual scientists to directly contribute to the greater task of understanding the world.”