Preprints and peer review at eLife

We remind researchers that we now only peer review articles posted by the authors on a preprint server.
Inside eLife
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The eLife community has always strongly supported preprinting. As preprints have become more popular with our authors (a survey last summer showed that 70% of articles we reviewed had already been posted by authors on arXiv, bioRxiv or medRxiv), we have focused on taking advantage of the unique opportunities preprints provide to build a more open and effective system of peer review.

Last December, we announced that we are changing our editorial process to emphasize the production of public reviews to be posted alongside preprints (Eisen et al., 2020). As this system only works when articles have been posted as preprints, we also announced in December that as of July 1, we would only be reviewing in-depth articles posted as preprints.

During this transition period, when we were implementing and refining the process, authors could still opt to have non-preprinted articles reviewed. Nonetheless, preprint adoption continued to increase, and is now at more than 80%. We asked for feedback from authors choosing not to post preprints, which are summarized here (see “What we have learned about preprints”).

Preprinting has been growing across biology and medicine as its advantages to authors and readers have become more evident. Building an effective system of reviewing preprints is an essential prerequisite for preprinting to become universal. From the beginning, our mission has been to accelerate and improve research communication: one of the most important things for us to fulfil this goal is to focus now on perfecting the review of preprints.

We appreciate that for this to work, it is important that we, and the wider scientific community, address the lingering concerns and practical barriers that prevent all scientists from preprinting all of their research. We are committed to leading this effort.

Further details on the eLife peer-review process that now applies to all research submissions are given below.

How to submit to eLife and what to expect

  • Initial submissions: Authors can submit their article directly to eLife, or via bioRxiv or medRxiv, for an initial evaluation. In about 30% of cases we invite a full submission that can be sent to external experts for in-depth peer review; other initial submissions are declined without being sent for in-depth peer review.
  • Full submissions: eLife only peer reviews articles that are available as preprints; if required, eLife staff can upload articles to bioRxiv or medRxiv on behalf of the authors.
  • Peer review: The eLife editorial process has two outputs: i) public comments from the peer reviewers on the strengths and weaknesses of the work, and whether the authors’ claims and conclusions are justified by their data, that can be posted alongside the preprint for the benefit of readers, potential readers and others interested in the work; ii) detailed feedback on the manuscript for the authors, including requests for revisions and suggestions for improvement.
  • Invitation to revise and resubmit: If the editor and reviewers decide that the article may be suitable for publication in eLife, the authors will be asked to revise it in response to the detailed feedback.
  • Posting the public comments: If the editor and reviewers decide that the article may be suitable for publication, eLife will arrange for the public comments to be posted alongside the preprint. Authors will be given an opportunity to prepare a response that can be posted at the same time as the comments and to correct any factual errors in the comments.
  • Rejection after peer review: If the editor and reviewers decide that the article is not suitable for publication in eLife, we will contact the authors to discuss publication of the public comments (and the authors’ responses to them) alongside the preprint. However, authors will be able to delay posting of the comments until their article has been accepted by another journal.
  • Publication in eLife: Articles published in eLife will continue to include the decision letter (which contains substantial portions of the detailed feedback from the reviewers), and the response from the authors to this letter.

Further reading and links

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