eLife’s new approach to publishing is now up-and-running. In the new model, authors still receive a high-quality peer-reviewed eLife publication. However, it’s different in two key ways. Firstly, all papers that are invited for review are published on the eLife website as a Reviewed Preprint, giving readers an earlier view of the reviews and editor's assessment. Secondly, the authors control the next steps. This can include submitting a revised preprint or publishing their Reviewed Preprint as a Version of Record which will be sent to indexers like PubMed and can be listed in funding, job applications and more.
Since announcing this new model, we’ve been pleased with the engagement and questions we’ve had from the scientific community.
We’ve compiled four of our most frequently asked questions and their answers below:
No – upon submission, all papers are assigned by a Deputy Editor to a Senior Editor in the field who, in consultation with the relevant Reviewing Editors, decides whether it should be invited for review.
This initial step has always been in place at eLife because, as an organisation, it would not be possible for us to review every paper that is submitted to us and maintain the high-quality peer review we pride ourselves on.
Previously, editors were asked at this point to consider whether the paper in front of them could be considered an ‘eLife paper’, based on factors such as its potential to move its field forward, whether it opened up new areas for exploration and its potential to have real-world impact.
Under eLife’s new model for publishing, all the papers that are considered for review are already published as preprints by the authors. Our editors will now consider if they can produce high-quality reviews and assessments that will be of significant value to the community and a broad audience.
Broadly speaking, we expect editors to continue to volunteer to review papers they would have under the previous model, and to take advantage of the fact that we are no longer making decisions following peer review to include papers that we would not have previously reviewed. This could include papers with negative results; papers with compelling approaches and individual intriguing findings that might not be complete stories; papers whose results connect to other work; papers that seem wrong in interesting ways; and papers on controversial topics where public peer review would be particularly useful.
It will obviously be disappointing to authors not to have their paper reviewed by eLife – especially because we are one of only a handful of editorial boards whose focus is on the public review of preprints. However we want to emphasise that we do not ascribe any significance to the choice to review a paper. It is more about our ability to review it well. And it is the reviews and assessments we produce – and not the fact that we reviewed it – that should be the focus of the reader’s attention.
Yes. A paper published as a Version of Record (VOR) under our new model still meets all the requirements of funders and institutions. We still perform high-quality peer review, uphold the highest editorial standards and perform the same rigorous checks as we always have. All that’s changing is the way we signal our evaluation. Instead of simply saying “accepted in eLife”, we provide an eLife assessment of the significance and strength of evidence.
Reviewed Preprints will also have an eLife citation and DOI and can be used on applications in the exact same way as any other research article. The parent DOI and citation remain the same across different versions, including the VOR, although it will also be possible to indicate a specific version in both the citation and DOI.
The benefit of a Reviewed Preprint is that it includes a concise assessment of the work, along with the peer reviews. The eLife assessments have been designed to provide a clear summary of what the editors and reviewers thought about the preprint. They use a common vocabulary for consistency that covers the significance of the findings and the strength of the evidence. These assessments allow hiring and funding committees to understand the value and quality of the research.
If an author chooses to submit their work under our new model, a publication fee of $2,000 is charged at the point that their preprint is sent for peer review. This fee includes the cost of the initial evaluation, staff checks, peer review, the publication of a Reviewed Preprint, re-review, publication of subsequent versions of the Reviewed Preprint, and publication of the Version of Record (at the authors’ request). Authors without the funds available for the fee can request a full waiver as before.
By entering into our new process, authors agree to have their work published alongside the eLife assessment and public reviews as a Reviewed Preprint. Before publication, they can ask for any factual errors in the public reviews to be corrected or removed. They can also provide public responses to accompany the reviews and will have two weeks to do so before the Reviewed Preprint is published on our website.
Once a Reviewed Preprint is published authors can of course then submit a revised manuscript. We welcome revisions that respond to the review comments, and will decide whether to re-review any revisions before publishing an updated Reviewed Preprint along with the updated peer reviews and eLife assessment. The revised version, along with the updated assessment, will overlay the previous version on the eLife website, with older versions and assessments still readily available to readers.
Authors are free to take their Reviewed Preprint and submit to another journal at any time up until they request a Version of Record. While the Reviewed Preprint of papers submitted elsewhere will still be available, they will not be listed in PubMed or other indexes.
You can find the answers to other frequently asked questions by visiting our author FAQs. You may also be interested in our recent webinar where members of our senior editorial team covered questions around the public review process, what happens after review and more.
Questions and comments are welcome. Please annotate publicly on the article or contact us at hello [at] elifesciences [dot] org.