eLife welcomes Michael Eisen as Editor-in-Chief

Leading open-access advocate will take eLife forward in its mission to transform publishing in the life and biomedical sciences.
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eLife is pleased to announce Michael (Mike) Eisen as its new Editor-in-Chief.

Michael Eisen

A world leader in advocacy for open science, Eisen, from University of California, Berkeley, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), was chosen following a worldwide search and selection process. In addition to his scientific achievements as an HHMI Investigator and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology, he has demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to reforming research communication for the benefit of scientists and society.

Eisen takes over from Randy Schekman, eLife’s founding Editor-in-Chief, who stepped down in January to dedicate more time to his role as Chair of the Advisory Council for the Aligning Science Across Parkinson's initiative.

"We are in a critical period of flux in the publication landscape, and Dr Eisen’s vision and dedication to serving a broader swath of the scientific community are precisely what eLife needs to adapt and catalyse further change,” says Prachee Avasthi, Assistant Professor of Cell Biology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, US, and member of eLife’s Board of Directors. “Through his example and public advocacy, he has inspired many early-career scientists like myself to challenge current incentives and reconsider how we disseminate our research findings. We are thrilled to welcome Mike as the new Editor-in-Chief of eLife and I look forward to working with him.”

Bodo Stern, Chief of Strategic Initiatives at HHMI, adds: “Mike is widely respected as a visionary and catalyst for the future of scientific publishing. With his hire, eLife redoubles its commitment to innovation in scholarly communication.”

Eisen played an integral role in kick-starting the open-access movement, which seeks to make the scientific literature freely available to all readers. In 2001, together with his former postdoctoral advisor Patrick Brown (then at Stanford University) and Harold Varmus (formerly director of the National Institutes of Health), Eisen founded Public Library of Science (PLOS), a non-profit advocacy organisation that pioneered open-access publishing. When Eisen founded his own lab in 2000, he made the rare commitment to publish exclusively in open-access journals, and has done so ever since.

“I’m honoured to have been chosen for this role,” Eisen says. “We have made a lot of progress towards making publishing open, fair and effective, but so much remains to be done. The system remains slow and insanely expensive. Our addiction to high-impact factor journals poisons hiring and funding decisions, and distorts the research process. And, most frustratingly, the vast majority of the scientific and medical literature remains locked behind paywalls. I am excited to work with the staff and editors of eLife and the entire research community to finish the job we started two decades ago. Together we can build a publishing system driven not by profit, but by service to science, scientists and the public who make our work possible.”

He adds: "The reputation eLife has developed as a publisher of outstanding research, innovator in peer review and publishing technology, and advocate for the values of the scientific community, as well as the continued support it receives from key research funders, has positioned the journal to be the key catalyst for transforming the publication of results in life science and biomedical research.”

Eisen will work with the organisation’s Product, Innovation and Technology teams to help build open-source tools that improve the communication of new research. “Having the community take control of the tools that are used to publish and manage our literature is central to our mission,” he says. “Our goal is to ensure that everyone has access to the infrastructure needed to openly disseminate, review and curate the research literature.”

He will also provide strong support for eLife initiatives, such as the work of the Early-Career Advisory Group and the eLife Ambassadors’ programme, to ensure that the entire community helps to shape the future of eLife and research communication.

Speaking about the appointment, Toby Coppel, Chair of eLife’s Board of Directors and Co-Founder and Partner of Mosaic Ventures, UK, said: “We are delighted to have Mike join us in this role. He has for many years led by example in his efforts to make the fruits of scientific research openly available to the world, and his experience will provide an excellent resource for eLife as it exploits the potential of open-source software to help accelerate discovery. It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate person to lead the organisation at a time when publishing in science and medicine is poised to undergo necessary and profound change.”

“I am delighted that Mike has agreed to become eLife’s new Editor-in-Chief, building on the strong legacy left by Randy Schekman,” adds Mike Turner, Director of Science at Wellcome, UK. “Mike has an outstanding academic record, and is widely recognised as someone with both passion for and skill in improving scholarly communication. Wellcome has long supported innovation in the way research findings are disseminated and we look forward to working with Mike as he develops his strategy for improving research communication at eLife.”

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eLife aims to help scientists accelerate discovery by operating a platform for research communication that encourages and recognises the most responsible behaviours in science. We publish important research in all areas of the life and biomedical sciences, which is selected and evaluated by working scientists and made freely available online without delay. eLife also invests in innovation through open-source tool development to accelerate research communication and discovery. Our work is guided by the communities we serve. eLife is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, the Wellcome Trust and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. Learn more at https://elifesciences.org/about.