I've been a a big fan of @eLife and their model for years, and we've submitted almost every paper from the lab there (most ended up elsewhere). Like many others, I was skeptical when they rolled out the new model. But, we are scientists, so we decided to do the experiment 1/nDr. Kevin Wright (@kevinmawright)
By Kristen Ratan and Shilpa Rele (ICOR), Fiona Hutton and Rowena Walton (eLife)
eLife’s new approach to publishing has been open for submissions since the end of January this year. During that time, we’ve been encouraged by the positive feedback from the scientific community and there has been a lot of interest in how it’s working and what we are learning behind the scenes.
To monitor the progress of the new model, we are working with the team at Incentivizing Collaborative and Open Research (ICOR) to analyse the data we are collecting with regards to submissions, disciplines and attitudes towards publishing. ICOR is building a collaborative research culture by strategising, connecting and implementing projects that seek to change the status quo of competition throughout the research cycle.
In this joint blog, we review what we have seen in the first three months* and reflect on what we have learnt so far. It has always been our intention to be transparent about the rollout of the new model and so, whilst this is very early data which we cannot draw firm conclusions from, we felt it was important to share at this stage. We plan to reflect a much fuller picture six months from the launch when we have collected more representative data.
Overall we have seen a steady rate of submissions to the new model between February and the end of April 2023, receiving 1,429 in total. In tandem, we have seen a gradual decrease in the number of submissions to our old model, receiving 164 in total across this period. This is on track with the numbers we had forecast and shows that there is a clear appetite for our new model across the community.
Introducing the new model does not seem to have impacted the median number of days it takes for the decision to invite a paper for review, which is about seven days in both the old and new models. We initially saw the rate at which papers are invited for review decrease slightly in comparison with the same period last year (on average 24.5% in February to March versus 33% in the same period in 2022). However, we have now seen this stabilise and, in April, 32% of papers were invited for review in the new model, equal to the percentage invited in the old model. Given the change in our publication process, we expected to see these fluctuations but we are encouraged to see this now equal with the previous model. We will continue to monitor this over the coming months and discuss with our editorial board how this is working in practice.
Reviewed Preprints published on the eLife website have increased steadily over the first few months. We published 9 in February, 22 in March and 20 in April. Since the start of May we’ve seen a dramatic increase in Reviewed Preprints published each week and see this as a trend that is set to continue as more papers complete the peer-review process.
We continue to survey authors who have been through the peer-review process at eLife to monitor whether the process met their expectations and gather feedback. Surveys are sent out each month to all those who have had their Reviewed Preprint published in the previous month. In our first survey of authors who have been through the new model, feedback showed that the system met the expected needs and the majority of authors surveyed commented on the ease, expediency and transparency of the new model.
Survey data revealed that authors chose to submit their works to eLife due to the quality of the journal as well as to try out the new process. This was often prompted through word of mouth or due to their prior experience publishing with eLife; more so than social media promotion/influence. Authors also would likely recommend publishing with eLife to their colleagues/peers given their current experience.
One author commented:
“I enjoyed the peer review process: I really felt that the review process was meant to improve the quality of the paper. Public peer reviews are also great, because all the process is transparent, as it should be in science.”
As this was our first survey of authors who had completed the new process, the sample size was small and we will continue to monitor this sentiment as time progresses. We encourage authors to continue to share their feedback with us and the rest of the scientific community.
As mentioned above, this is really early data with small sample sizes, so we will be able to draw firmer conclusions later this year. In our next update, we hope to have further data which will allow us to analyse the average time to publication, the geographical split from where submissions are received and in which subject areas.
What we have seen and continue to be encouraged by, is that basic publishing statistics haven’t changed and community feedback is positive. Submissions are steady, there have been minor fluctuations in the percentage of papers invited for review and we continue to receive positive feedback from authors and the scientific community. We see this as a really positive indicator of how our new publishing model has been received and are excited to see how these changes begin to impact the wider publishing ecosystem.
Further reading on eLife’s new model:
We welcome comments/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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