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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 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’.
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.
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.
Almost 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 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 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 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 will revisit our travel grant policies ahead of the next deadline (May 31) and potentially revise based on the information available at the time.
With many conferences and in-person meetings cancelled or postponed, we are planning a series of online research seminars that will enable early-career researchers to continue to communicate their latest work to their peers. The call for speakers is now open and we will be advertising each online seminar over the coming weeks. This initiative is inspired by our early-career advisors and supported by our editors.
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.
Questions and comments are welcome. Please annotate publicly on the article or contact us at hello [at] elifesciences [dot] org.