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….”
“PREreview and eLife are pleased to announce today that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) has awarded a grant to the non-profit organisations. The investment will boost their efforts to enable more diverse communities of researchers to participate in the open peer review of preprints.
PREreview and eLife have been partners for more than a year. Their collaboration involves improving technology and research culture to support a more open and participatory ecosystem for the public review of preprints. They are currently working to enhance PREreview’s integration into Sciety – a website developed by a team within eLife for users to explore and curate evaluated preprints – and opening up new opportunities for more researchers to participate in public preprint review.
With backing from CZI, the organisations are in a strong position to achieve two key goals over the next two years. The first is to develop PREreview’s software and engagement strategies to allow new communities to solicit and create expert feedback on preprints. The second is to help enable reviewing organisations and societies to implement their own flavours of the ‘publish, review, curate’ model that PREreview and Sciety are showcasing, by building systems that facilitate and display expert reviews and curated lists….”
“Now, under different leadership, eLife is changing. Most importantly, eLife leaders are eschewing the traditional binary “accept versus reject” publication decision model in favour of an offer to publish every manuscript that can get past a cursory editorial screen (although there is significant uncertainty about how much initial gatekeeping editors will do). Manuscripts will be posted online alongside reviewer critiques and an editor’s summary of them. A set of standard buzzwords in bold typeface, such as “important”, “solid” and “inadequate”, that effectively amount to a grading system, will be included in the editor’s summary.
Noticeably absent from the list of standard buzzwords are descriptors that come anywhere close to conveying the sentiment “should be rejected”. Authors will decide whether and how they respond to reviewer comments – additional rounds of review can ensue, at the author’s discretion. In essence, eLife will offer to publish manuscripts with an “inadequate” grade, that editors and reviewers would have previously rejected.
It’s an experimental approach to scientific publishing that has some merits and some supporters. However, it is hard for me to see the changes at eLife as anything other than its demise….”
“From next year, we will no longer make accept/reject decisions at the end of the peer-review process; rather, all papers that have been peer-reviewed will be published on the eLife website as Reviewed Preprints, accompanied by an eLife assessment and public reviews. The authors will also be able to include a response to the assessment and reviews.
The decision on what to do next will then entirely be in the hands of the author; whether that’s to revise and resubmit, or to declare it as the final Version of Record.
Learn more about the changes we’re making and why….”
“eLife, the upstart publisher that has campaigned to end what it calls scientific journals’ counterproductive gatekeeping of research, today announced a new approach to hasten that outcome: It will cease accepting or rejecting manuscripts for publication, instead offering only peer reviews of selected manuscripts.
Until now, eLife, a nonprofit, online-only publication that focuses on the life and medical sciences, has charged authors $3000 if it accepts a manuscript. Anyone can then read the published online paper for free, instead of having to buy their way past a paywall.
Under the new approach, eLife will charge authors whose submitted manuscripts are invited to undergo peer review $2000 for that service. Regardless of whether the critiques are positive or negative, the manuscript and its associated, consensus peer-review statement will be posted online and be free to read. If the author revises the paper to address the comments, eLife will post the revised version….”
“Open access publisher eLife has announced it will no longer make accept or reject decisions following peer review.
From the end of January, eLife will instead publish every paper it reviews as a “reviewed preprint”, which it describes as “a new type of research output that combines the manuscript with eLife’s detailed peer reviews and a concise assessment of the significance of the findings and quality of the evidence”.
The move by the biomedical and life sciences publisher, which was founded in 2012 by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Max Planck Society and the Wellcome Trust as a not-for-profit enterprise, follows its shift last year to only reviewing papers already published as a preprint.
Michael Eisen, eLife’s editor-in-chief, said the latest move was designed to focus reviewers’ attention on the content of research rather than a yes-no decision….”
eLife is changing its editorial process to emphasize public reviews and assessments of preprints by eliminating accept/reject decisions after peer review.
Last year eLife began exclusively reviewing papers already published as preprints and asking our reviewers to write public versions of their peer reviews containing observations useful to readers (Eisen et al., 2020). Over the past 18 months we have posted eLife reviews of more than 2,200 preprints to bioRxiv and medRxiv, along with a compact editorial assessment of the significance of the findings and the strength of the evidence for them.
We have found that these public preprint reviews and assessments are far more effective than binary accept or reject decisions ever could be at conveying the thinking of our reviewers and editors, and capturing the nuanced, multidimensional, and often ambiguous nature of peer review. eLife will now let them stand on their own by publishing every paper we review, along with our reviews and an assessment as a Reviewed Preprint, a new type of research output we hope will become the norm across science.
These changes are about more than just optimizing peer review. In choosing to no longer reduce our assessments to a single, eternal publishing decision, we are relinquishing the traditional journal role of gatekeeper in favour of a new approach that restores autonomy to authors and ensures that they will be evaluated based on what, not where, they publish.
This new manifestation of eLife is available to authors immediately, and will be the only way we operate come January.
eLife and PREreview are pleased to announce their continued partnership to engage more diverse communities of researchers in peer review.
eLife and PREreview formally teamed up last year following their collaborations on a number of initiatives. Now, as eLife moves towards a new ‘publish, review, curate’ model that puts preprints first, the organisations will increase their efforts to involve more early-career researchers, and researchers from communities that are traditionally marginalised within the peer-review process, in the public review of preprints. Their work will involve further integrating PREreview into Sciety – an application developed by a team within eLife to bring open evaluation and curation together in one place – and opening up new opportunities for more researchers to participate in public review.
“On April 12, 2022, our eLife Community Ambassadors and Open Science Champions heard and discussed strategies to sustainably advocate for open science (OS), as well as greater integrity and equity in research.
The aim of the webinar was to introduce OS to this global group of more than 300 early-career researchers (ECRs), as well as to discuss different ways of practising OS and how to overcome the barriers to adopting these – all under the guidance of our experienced panel of open science advocates. With our Community Ambassadors programme, we want to enable each researcher to consider their role in creating a more open and inclusive global research environment, and to facilitate a space and community for all those interested to voice any questions about or ideas for promoting OS practices in their local research communities….”