eLife Switches to a New Peer Review & Publication Model

Launched by a small group of biomedical research organizations and charities, the journal eLife began in 2012 to improve the traditional biomedical publishing landscape by creating a faster and more efficient online publishing model, where information could be made openly accessible to researchers and the public. 

Last week eLife announced that it was taking a new step in its ongoing quest to improve the peer review and publishing process by becoming the first journals to commit to reviewing only preprint publications. 

Starting in July of 2021, the journal will begin to only accept manuscripts for review that have been posted to a preprint server before submission. Going further, because the manuscripts they review will be openly accessible as preprints, peer reviews will be made public, even for those declined by the journal. To give everyone time to adjust to this new model, eLife will offer submitting authors the option to opt-out of submitting preprints for the next six months. After that, if a submitted paper has not been posted to a preprint server at the time of submission, the journal will post it to bioRxiv or medRxiv on behalf of the authors. 

This change is especially timely as an increasing number of preprints have been published in the biomedical literature during the pandemic. According to the journal’s chief editor, Michael Eisen, COVID has “highlighted the power of preprints to speed and democratize access to the latest science….but it al–=so highlights the need for an organized system to provide feedback and scrutiny of author-published manuscripts.” In recent years, many researchers and research advocacy groups, such as ASAPbio, have been calling for more experimentation and participation by journals in open peer review models to increase both the rigor and the transparency of science scholarship. 

In an editorial published on eLife, Eisen noted that he is excited by the opportunity to begin to “replace the traditional ‘review, then publish’ model developed in the age of the printing press with a ‘publish, then review’ model optimized for the age of the internet.” 

For more information about eLife’s publishing philosophy, and for details on how this new model will operate, read Eisen’s editorial.