A flavour of eLife: Introduction to our selection of recent highlights in print

Inside eLife
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eLife has this month published a selection of highlights from the journal in print. Free copies are available to order.

eLife was founded on three basic principles: the results of scientific research should be freely available to everyone; the peer review process should be fair and constructive; and the presentation of research papers should take full advantage of the possibilities offered by digital media and platforms. By embracing open access and being online-only, and by placing working scientists at the heart of the decision making process, everyone associated with eLife was and still is committed to improving all aspects of scholarly publishing and communication.

The articles selected for this print collection showcase the quality of research that we have published across the 14 major subject areas we use to classify research. Choosing just seven papers from the 1000-plus we have published since 2012 was clearly a challenge, so we restricted the choice to articles published since January 2014. We also had to rule out some papers that were very long: one of the advantages of an online journal is that papers can be as long as they need to be - and some eLife papers take full advantage of this!

Besides giving authors the space they need to tell their story, and also doing away with the need for supplementary or supporting information, being online-only has another important advantage: it allows journals to accept all the manuscripts that meet their standards. In the digital era it seems perverse for the acceptance rate of a journal to be influenced by a page budget that dates back to the print era ( Schekman et al., 2013a). The acceptance rate at eLife is currently 18%.

This collection also highlights some of the 'front-half' content that eLife publishes: this includes six Insight articles that explain why the results reported in a given eLife paper are significant; an Editorial on what makes an eLife paper; a thoughtful essay on the challenges of interdisciplinary research; and a genuinely funny article that imagines what might happen if Shakespeare had to apply for a grant to write Hamlet.

Sadly there is not enough space here to say more about our collaborative approach to peer review ( Schekman et al., 2013b) or cover a number of other initiatives. The Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology, for example, is a collaborative effort to independently replicate selected results from a substantial number of high-profile cancer biology papers. In addition to providing evidence about reproducibility in this particular field, we hope that the project will also identify factors that influence reproducibility more generally. Other developments of note include a new article type, the Research Advance, that allows the authors of an eLife paper to publish new results that build on their previous paper in an important way (see, for example, the paper by Lin et al. in this collection); a series of essays about the new science that could emerge from research into the natural history of model organisms; and a range of content and activities aimed at early-career researchers.

So, finally, an obvious question - having already published 1000 research papers online, why have we now produced a print version of eLife? First, we should make it clear that we have no plans to print the journal regularly. However, we have had many requests for something that could be distributed at meetings and put on display at a variety of locations. Some of the supporters of eLife would also like to be able to give their colleagues a physical version of the journal that demonstrates the quality of the science that eLife is helping to communicate. But most of all, if you have not done so already, we want you to visit elifesciences.org to see the online version of eLife for yourself and in full.

To find out more please click here.

Randy Schekman

Editor-in-Chief, eLife