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eLife announces new approach to publishing in medicine

By bringing rigorous review and editorial oversight to clinical preprints, eLife hopes to make peer-reviewed preprints a currency of trust in medicine.
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eLife is excited to announce a new approach to peer review and publishing in medicine, including public health and health policy.

One of the most notable impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the desire to share important results and discoveries quickly, widely and openly, leading to rapid growth of the preprint server medRxiv. Despite the benefits of rapid, author-driven publication in accelerating research and democratising access to results, the growing number of clinical preprints means that individuals and institutions may act quickly on new information before it is adequately scrutinised.

To address this challenge, eLife is bringing its system of editorial oversight by practicing clinicians and clinician-investigators, and rigorous, consultative peer review to preprints. The journal’s goal is to produce ‘refereed preprints’ on medRxiv that provide readers and potential users with a detailed assessment of the research, comments on its potential impact, and perspectives on its use. By providing this rich and rapid evaluation of new results, eLife hopes peer-reviewed preprints will become a reliable indicator of quality in medical research, rather than journal impact factor.

“With the growing number of medical preprints appearing online, it makes sense to have a system for reviewing them that allows readers to see at a glance whether new results are trustworthy,” says eLife Deputy Editor Diane Harper. “For authors, it’s great to be able to offer this solution for having their work published and reviewed as quickly as possible, especially when their findings may have important implications for human health.”

In addition to publicly reviewing preprints, eLife will continue to provide authors who submit their preprints to the journal with feedback from reviewers and editors through its consultative peer-review process, and will select a subset of those papers for formal publication.

eLife has always encouraged the use of preprints for the rapid sharing of new research and has been developing the new ‘publish, then review’ model of publishing since 2019, under the leadership of Editor-in-Chief Michael Eisen. This new system of creating public preprint reviews is the first major product of these efforts. The re-launch of eLife’s Medicine section is the second, and follows the appointment of Deputy Editors in Medicine, Diane Harper and Mone Zaidi, last year.

But eLife’s ambitions in medicine go beyond simply becoming a new open-access medical journal. The organisation aims to bring about cultural change to emphasise the importance of preprints and reviewing preprints, to focus on transparency, and to encourage responsible behaviours in medical publishing.

“We plan to use eLife’s expanded Medicine platform to assist the careers of physician-scientists based in the lab, clinic or elsewhere, and to support women and underrepresented minorities in physician-scientist roles,” says eLife Deputy Editor Mone Zaidi. “eLife currently fosters a programme for early-career reviewers, and we’ll also test novel processes for the professional advancement of this group. By working closely with the community, we hope to bring about cultural changes in research and review that are crucial to help translate meaningful scientific investigation to the improvement of our health.”

For more information about eLife and Medicine, visit https://elifesciences.org/articles/67528.

To view eLife’s Medicine section, see https://elifesciences.org/subjects/medicine.

And to read more about eLife’s ‘publish, then review’ model of publishing, see https://elifesciences.org/for-the-press/a4dc2f54/elife-shifting-to-exclusively-reviewing-preprints.

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eLife is a non-profit organisation created by funders and led by researchers. Our mission is to accelerate discovery by operating a platform for research communication that encourages and recognises the most responsible behaviours. We aim to publish work of the highest standards and importance in all areas of biology and medicine, while exploring creative new ways to improve how research is assessed and published. eLife receives financial support and strategic guidance from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Max Planck Society and Wellcome. Learn more at https://elifesciences.org/about.