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.
Erin O’Shea, President of HHMI, says: “Preprints offer a new opportunity for the transparent review of scientific research. Adoption of preprint review as a more established practice will enable us to move away from more simple metrics, such as journal impact factors, in the evaluation of research.”
The current science publishing system relies on a model of peer review that focuses on directing papers into journals. These reviews are not made publicly available, stripping them of their potential value to wider readers and leading committees to judge scientists based on where, rather than what, they publish. This can impact hiring, funding and promotion decisions, and highlights the need for a system of review that helps funding and research organisations assess scientists based on the research itself and related peer reviews.
Researchers globally are taking action to make science publishing and its place in science better, for example by preprinting their work and advocating for others to do so. This gives them greater control over their work and enables them to communicate their findings immediately and widely, and receive feedback quickly.
Several initiatives are now taking this further by bringing communities of experts together to openly review and curate research posted as preprints, helping readers navigate the preprint landscape and assess new findings for themselves.
Siv Andersson, Director of Basic Research at Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, says: “This movement represents a much-needed evolution in the science publishing process, with eLife leading the way forward. We support eLife’s new publishing model and will recognise reviewed preprints from eLife and other trustworthy publishing organisations in research assessment.”
Besides eLife, other organisations involved in preprint review and curation include PREreview – a platform for the crowdsourcing of preprint reviews; Biophysics Colab – which provides a review and curation service for biophysics preprints; and Review Commons – a platform for high-quality, independent peer review of life science preprints before submission to a journal.
While significant, such initiatives are not without their controversies. By decoupling the process of peer review from the journal, they challenge the traditional publishing system that has remained largely unchanged since the 20th Century. But preprint servers are now making it easier for the community to innovate in these ways and create something new.
Hannah Hope, Open Research Lead at Wellcome, says: “Wellcome has championed the use of preprints and post-publication peer review within the communication of research for over five years. The rapid reporting of research outcomes that they permit provides more timely evidence during the research assessment process supporting funders to make more impactful investments. We encourage all organisations to update their policies and processes to take advantage of the opportunities they provide.”
Ashley Farley, Program Officer of Knowledge and Research Services at the Gates Foundation, adds: “We’re already seeing authors benefitting from the inclusion of preprints in funding and job applications. We’d now like for as many organisations as possible to consider reviewed preprints in the assessment process from here on.”
So far, the following funding and research organisations have committed their support for recognising reviewed preprints in research assessment. Others that wish to join them can do so by contacting email@example.com.
- Cambridge University Libraries
- Champalimaud Foundation
- cOAlition S
- Gates Foundation
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute
- Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation
- Research Libraries UK
- Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute
eLife transforms research communication to create a future where a diverse, global community of scientists and researchers produces open and trusted results for the benefit of all. Independent, not-for-profit and supported by funders, we improve the way science is practised and shared. From the research we publish, to the tools we build, to the people we work with, we’ve earned a reputation for quality, integrity and the flexibility to bring about real change. eLife receives financial support and strategic guidance from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Max Planck Society and Wellcome. Learn more at https://elifesciences.org/about.