eLife and COVID-19: Our response to the pandemic

eLife’s editors, early-career advisors and executive staff are working to support researchers affected by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic represents an unprecedented threat to global health that requires effective and immediate action at all levels. Governments, organisations and individuals must act to minimise the spread of the virus and address its repercussions.

We have been heartened to see how the scientific community responded rapidly to the outbreak with previously unseen levels of openness and collaboration; though the COVID-19 pandemic is now disrupting many aspects of everyday life, and we are concerned for the countless researchers who have been, or will be, affected by the crisis.

While we are heading into uncharted territory, we want to offer some reassurance by outlining the range of actions that we are taking at eLife. Our response is ongoing and we plan to update this statement as the situation progresses.

We are curtailing requests for additional experiments during revisions

We have always taken a strong stand against reviewers and editors imposing additional work on authors and we are now making changes to our policies on peer review that we believe will help authors affected by the pandemic to publish their work without compromising eLife’s standards. These changes include asking editors to, wherever possible, limit requests for revision to issues of clarity and presentation or adjustments to the claims being made in the article rather than additional experiments or analyses. For more detail on these changes, see ‘Publishing in the time of COVID-19’.

We committed to a cross-publisher rapid review initiative

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new urgency to openly and rapidly share and review research related to the virus. We are now part of a group of publishers and scholarly communications organisations that have committed to work together on a rapid review and review transfer initiative. The aim is to maximise the efficiency and speed of the triage and peer review process of COVID-19 research, and we call on reviewers, editors, authors and other publishers in the research community to take action too.

We are allowing authors more time to complete revisions

With many not having access to their labs, offices or equipment, we understand that authors may need more time to work on revisions. We have therefore suspended our usual two-month limit on revisions and will give authors as much time as they need to submit revised manuscripts. This applies to papers currently in revision and any submissions made during the pandemic. To allay potential concerns that delays may lead to papers being “scooped”, we have extended our “scoop protection” policy and note that our editors have always taken the position not to penalise a new manuscript just because a paper on a similar topic was published a few weeks or months earlier.

We've also extended the deadline for our Special Issue in ageing, geroscience and longevity to August 31, 2020.

We are extending deadlines for referee reports and article proofing

With so many aspects of everyday life being disrupted, where needed, we will give reviewers longer to complete their reviews and authors more time to check their manuscript proofs.

We are working remotely and minimising travel

All of our staff have switched to working from home and many of our editors are in the process of shutting down their labs and will be doing the same for the foreseeable future. We are all working to minimise disruptions during this period and keep everybody safe.

We support the open and rapid dissemination of results

We are a born-digital, open-access journal and have always believed that new results should be made available as soon as possible. This is never more true than during a public health emergency, and we are supporting funding agencies in their bid to encourage publishers to make all COVID-19 papers and data immediately available. We are currently working with PubMed Central (PMC) to help them expedite the identification and processing of new articles published in eLife that are relevant to coronavirus research. We are also making the posting of preprints to bioRxiv or medRxiv the default for all new eLife submissions, though authors will be able to opt-out if they wish.

We are accelerating efforts to diversify and expand our editorial board

We are bringing forward our plan to invite early-career researchers to be eLife Reviewing Editors, as an effort both to increase opportunities for them to gain editorial experience, and to diversity and expand our editorial board.

We are supporting recent travel grant winners

We are in contact with the winners of the most recent round of our travel grant scheme to understand how they may have been affected by meeting cancellations and what we can do to support them. We have revised the schedule of application deadlines and will continue to monitor the situation.

We’re enabling early-career researchers to present their research online rather than in person

With many conferences and in-person meetings cancelled or postponed, we hosted a series of online research seminars in March and April to enable early-career researchers to continue to communicate their latest work to their peers. The schedule, speakers and recordings are collated here, and included recent eLife Travel Grant award winners. This initiative was inspired by our early-career advisors and supported by our editors.

We're sharing recommendations to mitigate the impact of conference and travel cancellations on researchers’ futures

Out of concern that the vital actions needed in response to the growing pandemic may disproportionately affect early-career scientists and researchers from countries with limited research funding, our Early-Career Advisory group have recommended seven actions to help lessen the unintended consequences of cancelled conferences.

* Edited March 26 to include initiatives announced in our Editorial on "Publishing in the time of COVID-19"

*Updated March 28 to include a link to the seven recommendations from our Early-Career Advisory Group.

* Updated April 20 to announce the extended deadline for our upcoming special issue on ageing research.

* Edited June 18 to update section on online research seminars


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