LiveCoMS “Perpetual Reviews”: When you want to have lasting impact on a subject area


If you’ve ever written a review paper, you know it’s a lot of work – rewarding, interesting, valuable work—but work which is also frustrating because your paper will be outdated before anyone even reads it. You’ll find out about those papers which you should have referenced but didn’t, and new work will be published between when you submit and when (often months later) your beautiful review finally sees the light of day; at that point, it no longer seems as comprehensive as it did when you first wrote it.

If your review was in an area of continued interest for you, perhaps you’ll start keeping notes for when, a year or a few down the line, you want to write a new review in the same area, so you’ll have a record of what new papers you want to cite the next time. But what if, instead, you could simply update your review paper to add those new references as you learn about them or as they are published, and to reflect changes in the field as work progresses? This would result in a higher quality study which would only have greater impact.

Even if you haven’t written a review paper, surely you’ve read many of them. If you want to get an good survey of a particular research area, you might look up recent review papers from leaders in that area. But which of their review papers should you read? There’s the one from last year, or the one from three years ago, or the one from four years ago… The titles, abstracts, and subject matter are similar, but each have different emphases, cover different literature, etc., so you end up needing to read them all. What if you could, instead, read a single, up-to-date article from a group of leaders in the field which provides a definitive review on that particular topic?

The LiveCoMS Perpetual Reviews category attempts to provide ideal review articles, expert-written and always up-to-date. LiveCoMS reviews can change in response to community input and new developments in the field. Perpetual Reviews allow authors to develop a definitive paper on a particular topic, growing, editing, and improving it as the literature advances and as they become aware of new work. Additionally, ongoing interaction with the community may result in shifts in their perspective, which can also be reflected in edits.

We anticipate that Perpetual Reviews may be developed to reflect both the dominant andcompeting views in a field. Others in the field can contribute (potentially being added as authors), and contributions could include not just complementary ideas but also discussion of competing views. Alternatively, in an area where there are multiple perspectives that are difficult to reconcile, it may be valuable to have separate reviews covering the major perspectives. Both approaches will supported by LiveCoMS.

Like other LiveCoMS articles, authors retain ownership of their own Perpetual Reviews, and can update these as often as they like on GitHub, but we recommend that new versions be published at least every 24 months.

It’s worth noting that the opportunity to publish updates to reviews in this way provides authors with academic credit for making updates. With conventional publishing, “updating” a review requires rewriting it and publishing a new article in a different journal; with LiveCoMS, updating it simply means making significant enough changes that a new peer-reviewed version is warranted, and then submitting your new version for a new round of peer review, resulting in a new publication. Both authors and readers stand to benefit from this approach, and we hope you will join us in pushing this forward!

David Mobley Lead Editor, Perpetual Reviews Living Journal of Molecular Science