Webinar report: What makes an eLife paper

eLife Editor-in-Chief Randy Schekman and Deputy Editor Eve Marder took part in a webinar to explain the eLife editorial process and the qualities that are found in an eLife paper.

So what makes an eLife paper? In the words of Randy Schekman: “We are looking for scholarship in the broadest sense – in the deepest sense – in all areas of biology". Theoretical, experimental and methods papers are all welcome; however, eLife does not currently accept review articles.

An eLife paper should report a substantial new discovery, said Schekman, but this does not mean that the paper needs to show something that will generate instant acclaim. Schekman wants to publish "papers that will lead to changes, to revolutions, to paradigm shifts”, even if they are not recognized as important for many years.

A paper should also be clear about what it has and has not achieved. A common issue brought up by reviewers, according to Eve Marder, is that authors often oversell their work by making claims that overstep the bounds of what their data show. However, this is often easily fixed during the consultation between the Reviewing Editor and the referees that is an essential part of the eLife peer review process: “Many times, we just make [the authors] tone down their claims, because we think the data themselves are really interesting,” says Marder.

If a paper is judged to meet the criteria for publication in eLife, it will be published. As Marder says: “Papers shouldn’t be in competition with each other, they should be in competition with some sort of platonic ideal of what science should be”. As eLife is online-only, there are no quotas or restrictions on the number of papers published each month. There are also no restrictions on the length of an article, or the number of figures it contains, meaning that every paper can fully describe its findings.

“Most of us became biologists because we were fascinated by the complexity and the beauty of biological processes,” says Marder. For her, the ideal eLife paper contains something “that gives you a sense of being a young student and again recognising that wonder and that magic of exploring the universe of biology”.

Further information about the topics discussed can be found at: