After a quick technical check, the submitted manuscript is immediately published online. This is very handy if you need to establish precedence, or if you don’t have the infinite patience required by the peer review process at some other journals. It also means that you are even more careful than usual to make the initial submission as good as possible as any embarrassing errors are preserved in perpetuity.
The reviewers’ comments are published online alongside the submitted manuscript. They can make for interesting reading, and are certainly useful for junior scientists writing their first reviews to get an idea of what is required. As a reviewer, it does mean a little bit of extra work, trying to make the review readable rather than a list of cryptic comments.
In addition to the invited reviewers’ comments, everybody is invited to submit a comment that will be published with the reviewers’ comments and considered by the editor when decisions about the manuscript are made. All you need to do is to register.
I’ve experienced all three of these features, most recently today when I submitted a short comment on Klein et al (2013). Klein et al (2013), which I discussed here a month ago, compares dinocyst-inferred sea-ice reconstructions with climate model estimates of sea-ice cover and concludes that the models have no skill.
Klein et al has received two invited reviews. The review from anonymous referee #1 is rather inconsequential; the review by anonymous referee #2 is more substantial and rather good, querying the robustness of the dinocyst reconstructions, arguing that the discussion was biased towards the proxy data, and noting some discrepancies with earlier dinocyst work.
The thrust of the argument in my short comment is similar to that in my earlier blog post. Briefly, the results of Klein at al are a paradox: on the one hand, it is trivial to demonstrate that the uncertainties of the dinocyst reconstructions, which were ignored when testing for the model skill, are underestimated, perhaps by a factor of two; on the other hand, because the models are so similar to the reconstructions, the uncertainties must have been over estimated.
My argument is in agreement with referee #2 but covers some slightly different material.
The next step is for the authors to write a response to the referees’ and my comments (alternatively the editor may write a comment first). If the authors respond before the closing date for interactive comments (tomorrow) I have the option of replying. If they respond later, I will have to use an alternative venue. If there editor asks for major revisions, there will be a second review phase, but that is held in private and authors of short comments are not invited to participate.
With regular journals, readers have the option of submitting a comment for publication if they find an error in a paper (assuming that it is published in a journal that accepts comments). This is a lot of work. With the Copernicus open review process, readers have the opportunity to improve papers before they are published: it is quick and easy to publish a short comment. This is a far better system, unfortunately the Norwegian bean counters give credit for peer reviewed comments in regular journals but not short comments in Copernicus journals.