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DocMaps to expand to increase the visibility and machine-readability of preprint evaluations

Thanks to new funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the DocMaps project, a collaboration between leading open science organizations, will offer anyone the tools to share, display, and analyze preprint evaluations.

Published onNov 08, 2022
DocMaps to expand to increase the visibility and machine-readability of preprint evaluations

Preprints are increasingly popular because they provide rapid dissemination and access to research findings, which have been critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. The academic community has responded by developing new ways of evaluating new findings — from informal Twitter threads to community review groups like PREreview, overlay journals Berkeley and MIT Press’s Rapid Reviews: COVID-19, and platforms that support the ‘publish, review, curate’ model like eLife and Review Commons.

As a consequence, publication and evaluation are becoming increasingly heterogeneous and distributed. A more diverse system of evaluation offers many advantages over traditional peer review, but adoption is hindered by technical barriers to participation and lack of discoverability. 

The DocMaps project has been working to overcome these barriers by providing an extensible, standards-based, and machine-readable framework. This framework fully represents metadata relating to preprint evaluation and other editorial processes processes not captured by current infrastructure.

During the pilot phase of the project, a collaboration between Knowledge Futures, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), EMBO, and eLife/Sciety, the organizations used DocMaps to capture metadata about preprint evaluations from EMBO’s Early Evidence Base platform and eLife’s Sciety platform and display them as community reviews on CSHL’s bioRxiv preprint server. Groups ranging from eLife to Rapid Reviews: COVID-19, Biophysics Colab, ASAPbio crowd review, and Arcadia Science are already taking advantage of this infrastructure to make their evaluations available directly on bioRxiv preprints in the “Community Reviews'' section.

Example of an ASAPbio crowd review on Direct Cell Extraction of Membrane Proteins for Structure-Function Analysis,

Thanks to new funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Open Science program, the project will now expand to develop a Software Development Kit (SDK) for creating and consuming DocMaps, support for more diverse types of evaluation processes, comprehensive documentation, mappings to common community standards and vocabularies, and support for anyone interested in using DocMaps in their projects. 

This phase of the project builds on both the pilot and the work of the DocMaps Technical Committee, a group of leading publishers, technology and infrastructure developers, review services, taxonomy definers, and open science advocates convened in the summer and fall of 2020 by Knowledge Futures, ASAPBio, and TU Graz’s Open and Reproducible Research Group.

“It has been a great help to use DocMaps for our work creating Reviewed Preprints at eLife. We use them to connect different services like our Enhanced Preprint Platform with Sciety and bioRxiv in a flexible, standardized way, without needing to invent our own standards,” said Paul Shannon, Head of Technology and Innovation at eLife.

“DocMaps represents a critical tool for navigating peer reviews and the preprints they evaluate.  This new grant will allow more people to use that tool and so help create an increasingly rich and diverse ecosystem,” said Richard Sever, Assistant Director of CSHL Press and Co-Founder of bioRxiv and medRxiv.

Over the next year, the project will reach out to review groups, preprint servers, open research data aggregators, and preprint tool builders to introduce DocMaps, learn about their requirements and ideas, and assist with integrations.

“DocMaps is a very general and flexible format that was ideally suited for us to represent in a machine-readable way the preprint peer review process at Review Commons and aggregate reviews across similar platforms on Early Evidence Base. We look forward to further collaboration with the DocMaps team on this exciting project that helps create a distributed infrastructure for peer reviewed preprints,” said Thomas Lemberger, Deputy Head of Scientific Publications at EMBO Press.

“We’re excited to use this grant to make DocMaps easy-to-use and ubiquitous, helping preprint evaluations become first-class objects across the scholarly publishing ecosystem,” said Gabriel Stein, Head of Operations and Product at Knowledge Futures.

To learn more about DocMaps, visit our website at If you’re interested in learning more about implementing DocMaps in your project, please reach out to [email protected].

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