Who reviews for Rubriq? (Part 1)

Rubriq provides high-quality, expert peer review of academic manuscripts in two weeks. By industry standards, our reviews are returned very quickly, but providing quality peer review is always our number one priority. Ensuring quality peer review is dependent on finding the right experts to review each manuscript we receive. Therefore, we make sure that each manuscript is reviewed by researchers who have the expertise to critically review the research topic, study design, methodology, and data.

Who is qualified to be a Rubriq Reviewer?
Rubriq Reviewers are the same academic reviewers that journals use for their peer reviews. They are required to have strong publication records and significant peer-review experience. Our reviewers must have completed a doctoral-level degree at an accredited university (or hold a tenure-track professorship) and must be actively publishing postdoctoral or faculty-level researchers at top research universities or institutes from around the world.

How are peer reviewers selected, vetted, and invited to review a manuscript for Rubriq?
Rubriq peer reviewers are carefully selected and vetted by Peer Review Coordinators (PRCs) before they are invited to review manuscripts. Rubriq’s PRCs are PhD-level scientists who graduated from top US universities (Duke University, John’s Hopkins University, and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill). Most PRCs have 3-5 years of postdoctoral experience and have published multiple first-author papers.

There are two ways that researchers can be invited to review a manuscript for Rubriq:

  1. When we receive a manuscript to review, we search our existing reviewer database for reviewers who have the right expertise to review a manuscript. All reviewers in the database were vetted thoroughly for their qualifications, publication records, and current research positions (see above qualifications for being a Rubriq reviewer). If reviewers have decided to use a user-generated email address (Gmail, for example) rather than an institutional email address for correspondence with us, then they must provide additional proof of identification (such as a picture of their institutional ID) before they are incorporated into our database. If we have appropriate experts among our current reviewers, we invite those reviewers to review the manuscript.
  2. When we do not have well-matched reviewers among our existing reviewer database, our team searches the current literature in that field to identify researchers with the expertise and qualifications to review the manuscript. Researchers with the right qualifications are sent a personal invitation to review the manuscript, and those who agree to review become Rubriq reviewers are added to the reviewer database and can be invited for future reviews. Many researchers we invite to review manuscripts are willing to provide suggestions for other potential reviewers. Those suggested reviewers are also vetted thoroughly before we invite them to review a manuscript.

Regardless of how we identify a potential reviewer for a manuscript, PRCs ensure that there are no apparent conflicts of interest (such as co-authorships) with the authors of the manuscript before inviting researchers to review the manuscript.

Who are Rubriq’s current reviewers?
To-date, Rubriq has over 3,400 reviewers from all over the world in our reviewer database. The majority of our reviewers (83%) are academics and clinicians from the US, Canada, the UK, and Europe.



More than half of our reviewers (62%) are tenure-track faculty or clinicians, and 32% are postdoctoral fellows or research associates. Almost half (49%) of current Rubriq reviewers are tenure-track professors and clinicians from the US, Canada, the UK, and Europe.


Rubriq reviewers hold faculty positions at some of the top universities in the world and serve as academic editors or editors-in-chief for well-known journals. In Part 2 of this series we will break down what institutions and universities our reviewers are working in, so stay tuned!

Cynthia Nagle, Phd

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Rubriq & Scientific Reports Fast-Track Trial

One of the main criticisms of the publishing process is the time it takes to go through peer review. More specifically, it’s the unknown amount of time the process will take that makes peer review feel like the “black box” that it is. Peer review is also one of the largest pain points for reviewers who may be inundated with requests from journals.

We developed Rubriq to save reviewers and authors time without compromising on rigor. Our scorecards help busy reviewers provide high-quality, rigorous feedback in an easy-to-use format. The resulting Rubriq Report gives authors clear feedback on how to improve and journals clear indicators of whether a manuscript would be acceptable for publication.

It’s for these reasons we are pleased to launch another experimental use of Rubriq. Starting this week, Rubriq and NPG’s Scientific Reports will be collaborating on a limited trial to fast-track submissions through the peer review process.  Much like priority mail, where you can pay extra to guarantee delivery by a certain date, fast-track will do the same for authors submitting paper to Scientific Reports. This gives researchers the option to pay an additional fee for expedited handling without compromising the journal’s standard.

The service will guarantee authors receive a decision in three weeks from complete submission/quality check of their papers. Rubriq will provide the peer review reports while Editors at Scientific Reports will make the final decision. The same editorial criteria for acceptance will be applied to any paper submitted to Scientific Reports, whether fast tracked or not.

We at Research Square are pleased to be partnering with NPG on this trial. We both have similar missions to advance science and enable researcher success. NPG has the highest standards of peer review in the industry, and it’s great validation that Rubriq passed NPG’s testing prior to embarking on our trial.

We hope to learn a lot from the trial to improve the author and reviewer experiences. We believe minimising the uncertainty surrounding the peer review process and speeding up the time to a decision on publication will be of real value to researchers, giving them more time to focus on making discoveries. We are excited to launch the Rubriq fast track trial with Scientific Reports this week.

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Rubriq adds Sound Research Stamps


Rubriq is excited to announce the addition of Sound Research Stamps to our scorecards. These stamps are based on direct responses from the reviewers that have evaluated the manuscript and allow authors and journal editors to know when a manuscript meets the standards of sound research. These stamps help provide even more context and clarity to the detailed feedback that the reviewers provide through the Rubriq Scorecard.

New Rubriq Sound Research Stamp creates additional publication options for researchers

December 2014, Durham, North Carolina

In 2012 Research Square launched Rubriq, a peer review that is fast, objective, and portable, to better enable researchers to meet their publication goals. Since its launch, Rubriq has performed over 2,000 peer reviews, much more than most journals would perform over that time period. The new Rubriq Sound Research Stamp represents another step toward a better model for publishing verified research results to maximize speed and impact. With the launch of the Sound Research Stamp, Rubriq is able to certify that a research article is fundamentally sound and suitable for publication. This feature gives researchers a quick path to sharing their results in a sound science journal and enables a future where self-publication is standard practice.

Rubriq’s independent process helps researchers by creating a standard format and scoring system for reviews, allowing them to bypass the traditional and time-consuming process of moving from journal to journal.

‘By decoupling validation from the publication process and creating a standardized peer review methodology, we give researchers more options to disseminate their work and, more importantly, more time to focus on their next discovery,’ said Shashi Mudunuri, CEO of Research Square. ‘The Sound Research Stamp enables researchers to more quickly share their results through a variety of channels. Savvy journal editors will offer streamlined publication paths to attract researchers that have the Sound Research Stamp, and we are happy to facilitate those connections.’

Rubriq scorecards already provide comprehensive feedback on research that has been thoroughly and independently peer reviewed. Now, the Sound Research Stamp will enable editors and researchers to immediately see whether the research is ready for publication in a sound science journal. The service is launching with two different stamps.

Sound Research Certified is for work that the reviewers believe could be published with minor revisions, or even exactly as it is.

Sound Research Potential is for articles that reviewers believe will be publishable but will require some larger issues to be addressed before publication.

‘Good peer review should create an in-depth, thoughtful response to the work,’ said Jody Plank, the Product Manager for Rubriq, ‘and Rubriq scorecards contain a wealth of information. But there’s also a need, particularly in open access publishing, for a clear assessment of the work. The stamps will give both researchers and editors an immediate indication of whether the article is suitable for publication.’

Crucially, the stamps make no judgment as to the importance of the work; that is for the wider scientific community to assess. Instead, the stamp indicates that the manuscript represents methodologically sound research with publication-quality presentation.

Rubriq has created the stamps as a direct response to the needs of open access publishers, who require a streamlined peer review system but are also looking to maintain high quality in their published works. Sound Research Stamps are a simple, concise statement of the quality of a manuscript for journals that publish technically sound research regardless of novelty.


About Research Square

Research Square is a for-benefit company that is focused on helping researchers succeed by creating tools and services that improve scientific communication. Through the AJE, Rubriq, and JournalGuide brands, Research Square provides a complete solution for authors who are preparing a manuscript for publication. To learn more about Research Square, visit http://www.researchsquare.com. More information is available about Rubriq and the Sound Research Stamp at http://www.rubriq.com.

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Rubriq partners with writeLaTeX



We’re excited to announce a new partnership with another top innovator in tools for researchers, writeLaTeX.  The official press release follows below. If you aren’t familiar with their new Overleaf system, go to www.writelatex.com/overleaf to check it out. It’s an easy-to-use WYSIWYG manuscript editor with real-time collaboration. It produces structured, fully typeset output produced automatically in the background as you type. And no, you don’t have to be a LaTeX user to benefit from either the original writeLaTeX or the new Overleaf system. It’s a great way to manage your developing manuscript, especially with multiple authors/contributors.



writeLaTeX partners with Rubriq to offer its authors direct access to pre-submission peer review services 

As an independent peer review service, Rubriq looks for opportunities to partner with other innovators in the scholarly publishing industry. WriteLaTeX gives authors an easy way to write and collaborate on their scientific documents through a user-friendly interface called Overleaf which automatically typesets the paper in real-time in the browser.

As a free service that lets you create, edit and share your scientific ideas easily online, writeLaTeX was a natural partner for Rubriq.

Rubriq has been integrated into writeLaTeX as a peer review component that researchers can use before they publish. Once authors have completed work on a paper in the writeLaTeX system, they want to be sure it is ready to publish.  To get the benefit of a journal-quality pre-submission review, they can submit it directly from writeLaTeX to Rubriq and get a critical evaluation by three experts in their field. This gives authors the opportunity to address any issues and increase their chances of acceptance once they do submit to a journal.

Dr. John Hammersley, co-founder at writeLaTeX says “Scientific publishing is evolving and we’re keen to offer our users a wide-range of destinations for their work. Rubriq offers a new alternative to the traditional publication route, and we’re delighted to be working with them to streamline submissions to their peer-review service.”

After a manuscript has been completed in the writeLaTeX system, authors simply select “Submit to Rubriq for Peer Review” (either in the top bar of your writeLaTeX screen or through the “Publish” menu). Then in one click, manuscript files and metadata will be passed over to the Rubriq submission system. Once the report has been completed, the authors of a paper can go back and make their revisions in real-time on the same document in the writeLaTeX system.




About Rubriq

Rubriq (www.rubriq.com) delivers objective, critical, pre-submission peer review of academic manuscripts from three carefully matched expert reviewers. Rubriq reviewers are all active PhD- or MD-level academics with established publishing and review experience. Reviewers are compensated for their work, and reviews are returned to the authors within two weeks. Authors pay $600 for the three reviewer report, which covers the cost of reviewer recruitment and compensation. Our standardized, structured scorecards span all areas of study and include detailed comments as well as numeric scores, which allow the author to quickly understand the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript, as assessed by experts in the field. Rubriq is a division of Research Square, which makes it a sister company to and AJE (manuscript preparation services) and JournalGuide (free online journal search tool). To find out more about Research Square, visit www.researchsquare.com.


About writeLaTeX

WriteLaTeX is a free service that lets you create, edit and share your scientific ideas easily online using LaTeX, a comprehensive and powerful tool for scientific writing. The company has grown rapidly since its launch in 2011, and today there are tens of thousands of active users who’ve created over a million projects. WriteLaTeX was founded by John Hammersley and John Lees-Miller, two mathematicians who worked together on the pioneering Ultra PRT Project and who were inspired by their own experiences in academia to create a better solution for collaborative scientific writing. In 2014, Overleaf aims to make science and R&D faster, more open and more transparent by bringing the whole scientific process into the cloud, from idea to writing to review to publication. Overleaf makes the power of professional typesetting immediately accessible to all scientists and technical writers at all stages of their career. Find out more at www.writelatex.com/overleaf.

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Reviewer motivation: observations from Rubriq


A recent post by Elsevier on a study by Chetty et al (http://www.elsevier.com/reviewers/reviewers-update/how-small-changes-can-influence-reviewer-behavior) and a follow-up post on the Scholarly Kitchen (http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2014/05/28/what-motivates-reviewers-an-experiment-in-economics/) addressed an issue core to the Rubriq team – motivating reviewers.  The study confirmed what we already knew about the effects of shorter deadlines and paying for reviewer time. However, the social piece discussed could have been an experiment on its own. Instead of just using email reminders, there could be a peer critique element introduced depending on the system used. We hope to pursue that further with our network of Rubriq reviewers, but as a supplement to payments, not a replacement.

It’s always interesting to see the comments that come from discussions regarding paying reviewers. As some of the comments seen on the Scholarly Kitchen article suggest, the act of providing a $100 honorarium/stipend is quickly extrapolated into a commercialized market steeped in corruption.  However, the bias that money=evil conflicts with many other discussions we’ve seen about how reviewers are expected to work for free, not receiving any reward for their time in a monetary model that favors the journal/publisher. There is a big difference between providing a moderate payment as an incentive to meet a deadline on a single review, and paying a full-time salary with large bonus incentives.

When we first launched Rubriq, we worried that we would face community criticism about our policy to pay reviewers. However, we have received very little negative feedback from the researchers we have contacted. Less than 10% of our reviewers have either opted-out of receiving payment or are ineligible due to residence or employment restrictions. But most are happy to accept a monetary reward for their time and effort.

We recently surveyed our reviewers to find out more about their motivations. The leading reason was to receive financial compensation for their work/time. But this 33.2% was a narrow victory over intrinsic motivations such as gaining more peer review experience (32.5%), supporting the mission behind Rubriq (15.1%), to help create standards for their field (12.8%), and even to get to read new papers in their fields (3.2%).  Like most decisions, we assume that a researcher decides to review an article based on multiple factors, not just a single motivator. In our survey we asked the reviewers to select just one reason as their primary motivation, but in future research we may change to a ranked sort or percent distribution. Because the decision to review has many potential sources of influence, we feel it is unlikely that these same researchers would accept a shift to a completely commercialized review market.


Payment could help compensate for some other elements that might be lacking – papers that are submitted to a journal, but that appear to be low on the novelty/interest scale might languish for months at a journal waiting to attract attention. Outsourcing peer review of “challenging/problem” papers to a service like Rubriq would make journals more efficient but not require across the board reviewer payments – they could still get interested reviewers for the sexier papers to do it for free, and pay for the benefit of faster/efficient process for others. For reviewers, knowing that they are being compensated for their time can help ease frustration when they are reviewing some of these more challenging papers.

Despite the positive acceptance of our policy to pay reviewers, we are still exploring other types of reward options. Recognition is one aspect we are pursuing, and we hope to work with the CASRAI/ORCID project to integrate reviews done through Rubriq into a researcher’s record. In addition to recognition programs, we asked our reviewers about alternate types of payment. Although our current direct payment option is the most preferred, reviewers have also expressed interest in models in which an equivalent donation is made to the charity of their choice, or in which the funds are deposited into a central account for use by the researcher’s lab/department/institution.

Quality of review is another compelling topic. We were happy to see that our own findings that quality was not adversely affected by speed were upheld by the Chetty et al study.  At Rubriq we have even seen an increase in review quality within our system, which is attributed to both our standardized scorecard structure and our in-house quality check of all reviews. The scorecard provides reviewers with a tested instrument that effectively guides them through a comprehensive assessment of the paper. The standardized format enables reviewers to become more efficient over time and to maintain a consistent quality of review.  Our internal QA check assesses each review for its ability to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript.  In addition to ensuring that the customer receives a high-quality assessment, this also adds built-in control to select out any reviewers who are simply filling in the blanks to get a check. In the event a reviewer “phones it in” the reviewer is given the chance to amend the scorecard to provide a more detailed, informative assessment, but is replaced on that manuscript if they chose not to do so.

Some have expressed concern that compensating reviewers for their time will result in the loss of objectivity and honesty, but this fear is based on a very shortsighted perspective. Researchers and publishers do not come to us for glowing reviews; they come to us for honest assessments. Accordingly, we happily pay reviewers for comprehensive, thoughtful reviews regardless of the reviewer’s overall opinion of the work. Our future hinges on our ability to consistently provide this honest feedback to the research community, and because we are not a publisher, there is no financial incentive to bias our reviews or reviewer selection towards positive opinions.

One of the other concerns regarding compensating reviewers is the associated cost to the system. We have found that 15 million hours of researcher’s time is lost each year to performing redundant reviews (and under the current system that number will grow). However, the costs associated with having this amount of time distracting researchers from their primary mission seems to be willfully ignored in the discussion of compensating reviewers. “Free peer review” isn’t free, it is simply paid for in a different currency. This is one of the primary motivations behind Rubriq: if a standardized, in-depth review is performed and it is transferable from journal to journal, then costs associated are apparent and only paid for once. In addition, this system is not simply pulling money from the research community, but is also putting compensation back into the hands of the researchers in the community that are performing the evaluations.

My favorite quotable from the Elsevier post was “… as editors, we shouldn’t believe that the performance of our journals is something we can’t change. We can greatly improve the quality of our journals’ review process through simple policy changes and active editorial management.”

I hope more journal editors adopt this attitude because it could be one of the most impactful and meaningful shifts for the industry. When journals treat all authors as valuable customers and act accordingly to improve services, I think everyone wins. Overall these articles offer a nice validation of our efforts at Rubriq, confirming that we can improve turnaround speed without sacrificing quality.  We welcome your comments or questions.

Lisa Pautler, Rubriq |  lisa.pautler@rubriq.com

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Welcome, JournalGuide!



Today marks the official public launch of JournalGuide, a free tool for authors to use to find the best match for their research. JournalGuide grew out of the Rubriq team’s need to create a comprehensive journal database and powerful search tools at the article level. Our team continues to use this data to provide customized journal recommendations as a part of the complete Rubriq Report. We saw an opportunity to take what was originally an internal tool and make it into a free resource for all authors. By doing so, we also created the opportunity to collect author ratings and input to make it even more helpful. User accounts for JournalGuide and Rubriq are linked with a central login, and all journal profile data are also shared. Journals that created profiles on www.rubriq.com will see that data displayed live on JournalGuide. Be sure to visit www.journalguide.com to try it out, rate a journal or two, and share your feedback.

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QScience selects Rubriq to provide peer review for its 15+ journals


The Rubriq team is excited to announce a new relationship with QScience. Although we continue to be a service focused on helping individual authors, the QScience journals will now also be direct customers of Rubriq. We will provide standardized peer review for their incoming submissions, and effectively remove the connection between peer review and revenue that can cause controversy for Gold OA journals.

Here is the full news release:

International open access publisher Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation has announced a new partnership with Rubriq, complementing its own peer review process for journals on QScience.com with Rubriq’s ground-breaking scorecard, a standardized, independent peer review tool, developed to speed publication and increase trust in the peer review process.

While Rubriq will provide an independent peer review of submitted research, the editors-in-chief of each journal will retain control over which papers are ultimately accepted or rejected and base these decisions on both the evaluation of Rubriq reviewers and the particular scope of the journal in question. There are more than 15 journals available through QScience.com, from specialized-topic journals to the multidisciplinary journal QScience Connect.

Although Rubriq will supplement the existing review process for more traditionally-structured journals, it will completely replace the peer review management process for QScience Connect, where editors will make decisions based solely on feedback provided in the Rubriq scorecard.

“This is a bold new step in the future of open access,” said Arend Kuester, Managing Director at QScience. “QScience prides itself in offering a fast, transparent and innovative open access publishing process that is centred on the author bringing his or her research to a global audience. This partnership will vastly improve that process, removing any potential conflict of interest in the reviewing process. And as the volume of submissions increase, the new process will also establish a consistent, high-quality standard of professional peer review and ensure that authors continue to receive responses within a reasonable time frame.”

“This partnership represents a significant step forward to the way in which scholarly publishers, authors and researchers come to think about peer review,” said Rubriq Co-Founder and Managing Director Keith Collier. “It is a paradigm shift that separates the peer review process from the actual publishing; eliminating major inefficiencies while validating Rubriq’s core belief that there should be a faster way to publish trusted research.”

Rubriq is designed to help individual authors make critical changes to their manuscript before submission and select the best journal for their work. This relationship demonstrates how journals can also use Rubriq to improve the publishing process. Outsourcing can enable journals to better manage the costs, quality and transparency of the peer review process.

The foundation of the Rubriq system is a web-based network that can handle large volumes of manuscript submissions. Using its proprietary software, Rubriq matches and assigns submissions to the appropriate peer reviewers, who utilize the patent-pending scorecard Rubriq uses to provide standardized, structured reviews. Rubriq also provides journal recommendations, using the reviews and software to match submitted papers to appropriate journals by keywords, as well as the impact and quality of the papers as assessed by the reviewers.

According to Arend Kuester, QScience represents an ideal partner for Rubriq’s standardized, independent peer review scorecard as it has a reputation as an innovator that is always looking for ways to improve the publishing process. QScience was launched by a team with traditional publishing backgrounds in 2010. They sought the opportunity to create global journals with the freedom to leapfrog established publishing processes and technologies.

QScience’s focus on open access is also a good fit for Rubriq. Open access has been criticized by some for its potential for conflicts of interest or lower-quality (and sometimes non-existent) peer review. By using a tested, standardized, and independent peer review service like Rubriq, any journal can be assured of receiving unbiased, high-quality evaluations of research.

“Our relationship with QScience allows us to demonstrate the potential for Rubriq and the rigor of our peer review process in ‘gold’ open access through a real-life scenario, rather than just theory,” concludes Rubriq’s Collier. “It is a platform from which we can attract the interest of other individual journals, as well as thought leaders in scholarly publishing.”

QScience.com, a Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development initiative, already hosts 14 scholarly journals that cover diverse subjects including information and library studies, sustainable energy, education, medicine and bioscience, Middle Eastern healthcare, design, and Islamic studies. Additional journals are scheduled for launch later this year.


If you have any questions, or are a journal interested in discussing a similar relationship, please email us at info@rubriq.com.

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