eLife’s New Model: What is a Reviewed Preprint?

Reviewed Preprints offer researchers an open and transparent way to share their research and receive fair assessment and feedback quickly. But what are they and how do they differ from other publication routes?

Sharing preprints accelerates science communication. You can share your research openly and quickly. No shopping around an article until a journal accepts it, no fear of being scooped while reviewers prepare feedback, and as we experienced during the pandemic, faster sharing of research can accelerate discoveries and have tangible benefits to society.

Preprinting can also be a way for you to get feedback from your community. This can help refine and improve your manuscript, or even propose avenues for further research. However, preprints do have a drawback: the lack of the formal and recognised review and assessment seen in peer-reviewed journals.

Researchers, the media and the public need to be wary of claims made in unreviewed research but could lack the expertise to evaluate the research for themselves. This is where Reviewed Preprints come in. Reviewed Preprints bridge the gap between the two main methods of scholarly communication we see today.

A Reviewed Preprint is…

A Reviewed Preprint is composed of three outputs: the preprint, the public reviews and an eLife assessment. It is citable, shareable and has a persistent DOI that relates versions of the preprint. The public reviews and eLife assessment help readers quickly assess the significance of the findings as well as strengths and limitations of the evidence.

The peer-review process of a Reviewed Preprint relies on the same rigour and expertise as other publishing models with the added benefit that eLife offers consultative peer review, where editors and reviewers discuss their reviews with each other and produce a written assessment of the significance of the findings and the strength of the evidence. Publishing public reviews and the eLife assessment together with your preprint increases transparency and encourages open discussion around your research, and also provides you with valuable feedback on your work.

The “no-reject” model

The lack of a reject decision in our new model is because our focus is on the meaningful, public assessment of research. Every preprint that is sent for review will be posted on the eLife website. But instead of being subject to an accept/reject decision, we will share your preprint together with a thorough evaluation.

Reviewed Preprints are published alongside expert commentary: the review report, our eLife assessment, and optionally, your (the author’s) response. This model allows, equips and encourages readers to evaluate the merit of your research for themselves using expert opinions.

The public reviews will comment on the strengths and limitations of your preprint and whether the claims are supported by the data. A separate set of recommendations to the authors will help you revise and improve your work.

In removing the accept/reject decision from our publishing workflow, we are shifting the focus in research assessment away from the journal name and journal-based metrics and back onto the merit of the research itself – what you publish, not where.

What is an eLife assessment?

eLife assessments are summaries of the thoughts of the editors and reviewers who have assessed the preprint. They provide a richer and more nuanced response to an article than the binary decision of whether or not to publish the work.

We work with our reviewers and editors to ensure that all of our eLife assessments and public reviews add value to your work. Even when reviews are critical they should be fair, constructive and maintain high standards of professionalism.

To help readers quickly assess the merit of the research, eLife assessments indicate the significance of the findings using common vocabulary: from “useful for findings with focused importance and scope, to “landmark” for findings likely to have deep and widespread implications. Similarly, the strength of the support for the findings are described: from “exceptional” for exemplary use of methods, to “inadequate” where the research does not support the claims of the article. We highlight these terms in bold for ease of reference, and where different elements of a preprint warrant different evaluations, our assessments may use more than one of these terms as required.

Where there are significant revisions to a Reviewed Preprint it will be re-reviewed and the editor may update the eLife assessment too. This process is iterative and improves research outputs to better support the communities that use them.

Will funders and institutions recognise a Reviewed Preprint?

Some funders and research organisations are already recognising Reviewed Preprints as being of equivalent standing as peer-reviewed journal articles, while an eLife Version of Record (VOR) ensures that you can still meet all the requirements of funders and institutions that require the VOR, or use your VOR in grant and job applications just as other peer-reviewed articles.

Adopting the Reviewed Preprints model of publishing furthers our mission to innovate in scholarly publishing and accelerate research discovery. We are delighted that so many in the research community are supporting this transition. If you’d like to learn more about Reviewed Preprints, we answered some of the most frequently asked questions about eLife’s new model here, or check out the ICOR (Incentivizing Collaborative and Open Research) analysis of six months of our new model.


We welcome comments and questions from researchers as well as other journals. Please annotate publicly on the article or contact us at hello [at] elifesciences [dot] org.

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