“eLife’s new approach to publishing has been open for submissions since the end of January this year. During that time, we’ve been encouraged by the positive feedback from the scientific community and there has been a lot of interest in how it’s working and what we are learning behind the scenes.
To monitor the progress of the new model, we are working with the team at Incentivizing Collaborative and Open Research (ICOR) to analyse the data we are collecting with regards to submissions, disciplines and attitudes towards publishing. ICOR is building a collaborative research culture by strategising, connecting and implementing projects that seek to change the status quo of competition throughout the research cycle.
In this joint blog, we review what we have seen in the first three months* and reflect on what we have learnt so far. It has always been our intention to be transparent about the rollout of the new model and so, whilst this is very early data which we cannot draw firm conclusions from, we felt it was important to share at this stage. We plan to reflect a much fuller picture six months from the launch when we have collected more representative data….’
“In response to a Nature News Feature published March 17, eLife’s Board of Directors has issued the following letter of support for our new publishing model and leadership: …
The decision to evolve eLife to the new publishing model was made by eLife’s board. It was not a decision made by any individual employee of eLife. At the board’s behest, the staff of eLife and members of the editorial team have worked hard over several years – and continue to do so today – to make this transition possible….
A key decision was to evolve eLife itself, rather than experiment with a new journal….”
“I have a simple suggestion for how to counteract such a concern, and that is that the journal should adopt a different criterion for deciding which papers to review – this should be done solely on the basis of the introduction and methods, without any knowledge of the results. Editors could also be kept unaware of the identity of authors.
If eLife wants to achieve a distinctive reputation for quality, it could do so by only taking forward to review those articles that have identified an interesting question and tackled it with robust methodology. It’s well-known that editors and reviewers tend to be strongly swayed by novel and unexpected results, and will disregard methodological weaknesses if the findings look exciting. If authors had to submit a results-blind version of the manuscript in the first instance, then I predict that the initial triage by editors would look rather different. The question for the editor would no longer be one about the kind of review the paper would generate, but would focus rather on whether this was a well-conducted study that made the editor curious to know what the results would look like. The papers that subsequently appeared in eLife would look different to those in its high-profile competitors, such as Nature and Science, but in a good way. Those ultra-exciting but ultimately implausible papers would get filtered out, leaving behind only those that could survive being triaged solely on rationale and methods.”
“Last October, the pioneering life-sciences journal eLife introduced bold changes to its editorial practice — which some researchers applauded as reimagining the purpose of a scientific journal. From 31 January this year, eLife said, it would publish every paper it sent out for peer review: authors would never again receive a rejection after a negative review. Instead, reviewers’ reports would be published alongside the paper, together with a short editorial assessment of the work’s significance and rigour. Authors could then decide whether to revise their paper to address any comments.
The change followed an earlier decision by eLife to require that all submissions be posted as preprints online. The cumulative effect was to turn eLife into a producer of public reviews and assessments about online research. It was “relinquishing the traditional journal role of gatekeeper”, editor-in-chief Michael Eisen explained in a press release, and “promoting the evaluation of scientists based on what, rather than where, they publish”….”
“In last month’s column, I spoke about preprint sites as a possible future direction of note for our journals. At the end of that editorial, I said I would talk about eLife since this journal is doing several things quite different, some of which may be of interest to JFS….
eLife editors argue that the “new model combines the immediacy and openness of preprints with the scrutiny of peer review by experts.” Will this approach to scholarly publication take root? There are certainly some interesting concepts for us to consider….”
“Another organization that is blurring the lines between preprint review and journals is eLife. eLife is an open access journal funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Wellcome Trust, and the Max Planck Society. It has required all authors to post preprints since 2020 but recently took the bold step of re-defining itself as a peer review service: eLife no longer accepts or rejects papers it considers; it simply peer reviews them and posts the reports online alongside the preprint.7 PLOS Biology has also experimented with preprint peer review by asking editors to consider both formal peer reviews and unsolicited comments on bioRxiv preprints they are considering for publication.
Preprint peer review thus encompasses a spectrum of activities from informal commenting to new services that can augment or potentially displace journals in the research ecosystem. Perhaps most significantly it prompts us to consider what peer review is and what it should be. Journal peer review is currently mostly concentrated among a small fraction of senior scientists who are overloaded and not representative of the global potential reviewer pool. ECRs are not often involved, nor are scientists from the Global South. Preprint peer review provides an opportunity to involve a more diverse sample of the scientific community. Increasing the representation of researchers from marginalized groups and the Global South in the review of clinical research could boost fields like neglected tropical diseases and socio-economic determinants of health. And since decoupled review is not exclusive or restricted to a single point in time, it could provide the basis for a new, more multi-dimensional approach to the evaluation of scientific research…”
“Biophysics Colab is pleased to announce that it will shift to a full ‘Publish, Review, Curate’ (PRC) model later this year. Their expanded service will provide authors with an alternative option to traditional journals for the review and dissemination of their work.?
Biophysics Colab is an international collaboration of biophysicists working to improve the way original research is evaluated. The group has been running a preprint review trial since 2019, which has proved popular among authors due to its service-oriented approach that focuses wholly on authors’ best interests. Now, Biophysics Colab is building upon this service by giving authors the option to create a final ‘version of record’ – equivalent to a journal article – after peer review of their preprint. This curation step will complete Biophysics Colab’s vision of a community-run PRC service, originally inspired by a proposal from Stern and O’Shea*….
Biophysics Colab is the first endeavour of the open science publishing initiative, Science Colab – a non-profit, community-run project supported by eLife, with a mission to add value and credibility to the scientific literature in a way that supports and benefits the community. Both Science Colab and the non-profit eLife share a similar vision of a publishing ecosystem in which the significance of research is recognised independently of journal title….
The collaboratory will soon begin to formally validate reviewed preprints as versions of record – a citable record of the final version of the work. However, authors submitting preprints to Biophysics Colab will remain in control of their study, choosing when to declare it as final. This reflects eLife’s new publishing model and makes Biophysics Colab the first group to adopt a flavour of it….”
eLife is pleased to welcome four new appointments to our Board of Directors: Federico (Fede) Pelisch, from the University of Dundee, Scotland, UK; Jane McKeating, from the University of Oxford, UK; Freddie Quek, from Times Higher Education; and Joanne Hackett, from IQVIA.
They join at an exciting time for eLife, as we switch to our new model of publishing that eliminates accept/reject decisions after peer review and focuses on the public review and assessment of preprints. The model is a major milestone towards our vision for a future where a diverse, global community of scientists and researchers produces open and trusted results for the benefit of all. We are also working to make this vision a reality through our open-source technology development efforts and community engagement activities, all feeding into our overarching ‘publish, review, curate’ mission that puts preprints first.
Abstract: The eLife Early-Career Advisory Group discusses eLife’s new peer review and publishing model, and how the whole process of scientific communication could be improved for the benefit of early-career researchers and the entire scientific community.
eLife’s new publishing model has sparked vigorous discussion about the role of editors in selecting research articles for publication. In October, the organisation announced that it is eliminating accept/reject decisions after peer review and instead focusing on preprint review and assessment.
In support, a group of nine funders have committed to including reviewed preprints in the evaluation process, even if they lack the traditional stamp of approval from journal editors. Among these supporters are the Gates Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, and Wellcome.
Cambridge University Libraries
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation
Research Libraries UK
Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute
Hyde, A., Pattinson, D., & Shannon, P. (2022). Designing for Emergent Workflow Cultures: eLife, PRC, and Kotahi. Commonplace. https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.ef6691ea
Scholarly publishing is evolving, and there is a need to understand and design the new (emergent) workflows while also designing technology to capture and support these processes. This article documents an ongoing collaboration to develop technology to meet emergent workflows in scholarly publishing, namely Publish-Review-Curate (PRC). We explore this topic with different eLife PRC community stakeholders using Kotahi, a flexible open-source scholarly publishing platform that can support variant workflows (built by Coko).
“To better understand what this change means for authors and reviewers, Upstream editor Martin Fenner asked Fiona Hutton, eLife’s Head of Publishing, a few questions….
What has been the feedback so far? We have had a huge amount of positive support for this model, from authors, funders, institutions and open science advocates. Many believe that although many organisations signed DORA, there has been a lack of movement and innovation in making those promises a reality and they see what we are doing as ground-breaking. Many are frustrated at the inertia in the current system and, at almost every open science event, everyone says the system is broken and we need an alternative. What we are doing at eLife is creating an alternative publishing model and providing an alternative output that can be used in research assessment. We are convinced that others will take up this model over time. Of course, we also know the current system is ingrained and that change can be difficult and cannot happen without strong support – we are in the fortunate position where our board is made up of funders that want the system to change and support eLife to lead that change. We also acknowledge that some people do not like or do not agree with the model and do not see the benefit of it. Instead of making judgements about a research paper based on the journal it was published in, we are asking the community to consider the substance of our reviews and editorial judgement, and that is a considerable step-change. It is the responsibility of eLife to show that the model can work and that there is a huge amount of value in it – and that’s where our priorities will be over the coming months….”
“The journal eLife recently announced a new scientific publishing model. Starting in January 2023, eLife will no longer make accept/reject decisions after peer review. Instead, every preprint that eLife sends for peer review will be published on eLife’s website as a “Reviewed Preprint” together with an eLife assessment, public reviews, and a response from the authors. This means that eLife authors – not editors – will decide whether and with what revisions an eLife article will be published.
HHMI enthusiastically supports eLife’s new model. As one of the founding members of eLife that continues to provide financial support, we stand with scientific leaders who recognize that publishing must change, and that now is the time. If we’re to fulfill the public promise of science – new knowledge to benefit all – we need to share research, including scholarly peer reviews, openly. We need to innovate in ways that prioritize research progress and quality of peer review over journal selectivity and prestige. We need to create systems that reward scientists for making choices for the greater good….”