eLife -- An author's new best friend

In this post we cover the key approaches that we take to eliminate wasted effort and time, to help out eLife authors.
Inside eLife
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By Mark Patterson, eLife Managing Executive Editor

One of our core goals at eLife is to create a publishing process that is second to none in terms of efficiency and quality of service. We want to eliminate as much wasted effort and time as possible. We also want to provide an experience for authors – as well as reviewers and editors – that is positive and enjoyable. Here are just a few of the approaches we’ll be using to help out eLife authors:

1) Quick and easy initial submission

eLife is a very selective journal and it’s likely that the rejection rate will be quite high. So, we’ve designed the initial submission step to be as quick and easy as possible. Authors are asked to submit their manuscript as a single PDF along with a brief cover letter. Within a few days, the submission will be assessed by one or more senior editors and a decision passed back to the authors. If the manuscript is turned away at this stage, authors will have lost little time and can quickly submit to another journal. If the editors feel that the work merits in-depth peer review, authors are invited to resubmit their manuscript along with additional information and files to support the peer review process (information about funding, ethical issues, data availability, high-resolution figures and so on).

2) Flexible format and length

eLife welcomes substantial bodies of work (up to a suggested maximum length of 5,000 words, excluding the Materials and Methods, References, and Legends), but we also encourage the submission of shorter articles – for example reporting interim findings – provided the conclusion is clear and the findings novel and judged to be of very high importance.

3) Concise, consolidated feedback after peer review

We aim to provide a swift decision after peer review but, more importantly, the feedback to the author will be concise and clear. Specifically, the reviewing editor and the peer reviewers will discuss the submission before a decision is reached, so that there is an opportunity for the reviewers to see one another’s comments and refine their feedback as necessary. The reviewing editor then consolidates the views of the reviewers into a single coherent set of constructive feedback.

4) Portable peer review

For manuscripts that are rejected after review, we request permission from reviewers to pass on their comments with their names to other journals, so that the author has the option to request that the peer-review information be passed confidentially to another journal. We are keen to work in particular with open-access publishers who use the Creative Commons Attribution license.

5) Minimizing revision

For submissions where revision is invited, the reviewing editor will usually assess the new version without further external peer review. The reviewing editor will therefore normally be able to provide a decision to the author very quickly, and any further requests for revision will be kept to an essential minimum. We’re excited that authors and reviewers will have a chance to experience these first five approaches first-hand when we move forward with the call for papers this month. And we’ll look forward to hearing their feedback and refining the process as needed. (Please also feel free to contact me directly at m.patterson [at] elifesciences [dot] org). Here’s how eLife will continue to support authors with the launch of the journal this Winter:

6) The finished article

We aim for eLife to push the boundaries on digital communication of new research. Authors will be able to incorporate rich media files (such as videos and sound files) into their work, will be encouraged to enhance their report with source files (such as secondary figures, underlying datasets) that will allow interested readers to delve deeper into the work. We’ll be striving for a presentation that will increase the value of the authors’ work for others to build on, and maximise its potential influence.

7) Promoting the work

eLife will enhance the discoverability of the work that we publish by releasing content through all major Web channels, depositing widely in abstracting and indexing services, and garnering robust, high-quality coverage in the media. On request, to assist in career development, senior editors will also provide letters of recommendation for authors whose work has been published in eLife.

8) Interpretation and impact

Publication is just one step in the overall research process, and eLife aims to add value to the content continually after publication. Along with the published article, we will include succinct impact statements from the author and reviewing editor, an easy-read summary to enhance the comprehensibility of the work for a broader audience, and commentary from relevant experts in selected cases. In the weeks and months following publication, we will also add metrics and indicators of impact and reuse, such as usage data, citation information, and a range of Web metrics. All of this information will be available to authors (and other users) for download to support authors in applications for grants, jobs and so on.

eLife is not just author-friendly, but also science-friendly. With the research community at its heart, eLife offers an unprecedented opportunity to move research communication forward to further the best interests of science.