Brandeis scientists support new peer-edited journal

Innovative editorial process outshines conventional methods

Getting published in research journals can be a long, arduous process, one for which scientists have felt that had no alternative — until now.

eLife, which recently launched online, is a joint initiative of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society and the Welcome Trust.  It is the first  “open access” journal that engages editors who are working scientists with the research scientists throughout the entire editorial process, expediting the time between submission and publication.

Michael Rosbash, professor of biology and HHMI Investigator, chose to submit one of his team’s most recent research papers on circadian transcription regulation to eLife.

“We wanted to publish in what we believe will become a high-profile journal,” says Rosbash. “You send your good work to journals that you like and want to support. We felt that it would be treated fairly and expeditiously, and it was.”

When a paper is submitted to eLife, it is assigned to a senior editor. They then work with someone on the board of reviewing editors, which draws scientists from around the globe, including three Brandeis biology professors: Bruce Goode, Leslie Griffith and Sacha Nelson.

Within a few days after submission, a decision is made whether or not the paper will be accepted. Rejections are sent with a short explanation, to save everybody’s time. Proposed papers that are recommended for full submission then go into a review process.

What makes this process different from those at other journals is that each of the reviewers, including the board of reviewing editors, does an independent assessment.

“If they have disagreements they use a website consultation process to hammer them out,” says Eve Marder, the Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of Neuroscience, who is one of the senior editors at eLife.

Marder says any substantive scientific disagreements are handled ahead of time so the author gets a fairly consistent reason for a rejection, or recommendations for revisions. This way the author isn’t faced with trying to respond to mutually disagreeing sets of comments. In addition, if one of the reviewers is wrong, “hopefully one of the others will pick that up, so authors shouldn’t be facing scientifically incorrect points in the review process,” says Marder.

Because eLife is only online it is able to provide supplemental information that traditional journals cannot, such as figures, data charts and metrics

“I think it’s always nice to have another quality biology journal option,” says Marder. Too many articles, she feels, are put into specialist journals, so there aren’t many that publish across the whole range of biology.

“We scientists all spend a ton of our voluntary time refereeing papers for journals who are making a profit and often not doing a terribly good job at filtering what comes in to them, says Rosbash. “I’m very enthusiastic about the enterprise, which is why we sent the paper there. Our experience had been good. It was rapid, it was efficient, it was fair.”

Categories: Research, Science and Technology

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