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Beginning today, authors who have shared their work as a preprint on bioRxiv are invited to submit to eLife’s new Preprint Review service. Initially detailed by Editor-in-Chief Michael Eisen last year, Preprint Review offers authors the opportunity to have eLife review their work directly on bioRxiv and, simultaneously, consider the work for publication in the journal.
The explosion of COVID-related papers on bioRxiv and medRxiv demonstrates the important role author-driven publications (preprints) can have in accelerating science. But it also highlights the need for an organised system to provide feedback and scrutiny of preprints.
Preprint Review aims to meet this need. It is part of our long-term ambition to develop a new system for research communication that directly couples author-driven publication with a robust process for post-publication peer review – a system that helps authors get the feedback they need more quickly and efficiently. To get started, we are leveraging eLife’s reputation for editorial excellence and community engagement to bring credibility to the process.
Authors opting in to Preprint Review will bypass our usual editorial assessment and proceed directly to peer review, subject to the overall capacity of our editors and reviewers as well as a few other limitations (described below).
Submissions through Preprint Review will undergo the same peer-review process as traditional submissions: Senior Editors will identify an appropriate Reviewing Editor to oversee the peer-review process, and the paper will be sent out to reviewers they select. Once the reviews are completed, the reviewers and editor will consult with each other and come to a decision about the suitability of the paper for eLife and what issues the authors need to address before publication.
Independent of the publishing decision from eLife, we will prepare a separate Preprint Review to appear alongside the preprint on bioRxiv. The Preprint Review will focus exclusively on the reviewers’ assessment of the research in the preprint and how the work is presented with, when appropriate, feedback for the authors and guidance for readers on how to interpret the work.
Reviews will be posted for all papers that go through the Preprint Review system, including those that will not be considered further for publication by eLife. The Preprint Review will be sent to authors in advance of posting so they will have time to prepare a response. Authors cannot elect not to have the reviews posted. However they can, of course, revise their work and post an update to their original preprint in response to the reviews. If the work is not accepted by eLife, they can take the Preprint Reviews to another journal.
Since its inception, eLife has been committed to making the process of peer review more transparent. We have always published decision letters for papers we ultimately accept. With Preprint Review we are taking the next step and publishing all reviews. Reviewers and editors put a great deal of time and thought into every paper they assess. Preprint Review ensures that everyone, not just authors, can benefit directly from this work.
For authors interested in eLife’s Preprint Review, the process is simple. Upload your manuscript to bioRxiv and select to submit to eLife, or submit to eLife directly, so long as you have posted a preprint. You should then ask to opt-in to Preprint Review in your cover letter, and include a link to your preprint on bioRxiv.
Preprint Review is an important step toward a system that leverages author enthusiasm for preprints together with the crucial function of peer review, and eLife’s editorial community will help drive its success. However, the introduction of this service should also be seen as an opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t, for authors, editors and reviewers. As with all such new initiatives from eLife, the community can expect that we will monitor closely, solicit feedback, report on what we learn, and evolve the system as appropriate.
Preprint Review is available for new submissions of Research Articles, Short Reports and Tools and Resources; the service is not available for Feature Articles, Review Articles, Research Advances or Scientific Correspondence (see our Author Guide for details on article types). Preprint Review is not available for manuscripts considered by eLife previously, and we will decline peer review if the work is clearly inappropriate for publication.
We also may decline to peer review a preprint for reasons of overall capacity, and our ability to find available appropriate editors and reviewers in a reasonable period of time. Thus, while it is impossible for us to guarantee that we will review every manuscript submitted to Preprint Review, the decision to review will be based on editorial capacity, not likelihood of being accepted for publication at eLife.
- Authors wishing to opt in to Preprint Review should indicate their wish in the cover letter, and include a link to the preprint. You may submit at the point of posting the preprint to bioRxiv, or start a new submission to eLife at any time.
- We will identify a Senior Editor and Reviewing Editor to oversee the peer review. The Reviewing Editor will select and invite reviewers.
- Once the peer reviews have been received, there will be a consultation among the reviewers and editors (as is usual at eLife) to arrive at a publishing decision and a review summary for Preprint Review.
- The Reviewing Editor will draft a decision letter based on the consultation, and ensure the reviews are appropriate for posting as well as meeting eLife’s standards.
- The authors will receive a copy of the Preprint Review along with the decision letter. They will be given up to three weeks to prepare a response to the Preprint Review if they choose to submit one. At the end of these three weeks, or earlier if the authors choose, the Preprint Review and any author response will be posted alongside the article on bioRxiv.
- The authors have complete autonomy to decide how to – or not to – respond to the Preprint Review, including posting a response and/or generating and posting a new version of the manuscript.
- Authors whose papers are rejected by eLife are welcome to have the published Preprint Reviews considered by other journals, and we will work with editors from other publications to facilitate this process.
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