eLife and the nature of Open Access in the Life Sciences

- 2 mins

The last decade has seen a huge boom in terms of open access journals, with innumerable debates on controlling the quality of publications in the open-access model. (Jeffrey Beall’s list of predatory open-access journals was mysteriously taken down earlier this year.) Especially in the life sciences, from the BioMed Central Journals introduced in the 2000s, the Public Library of Science Journals gaining popularity after 2006, the open access debate has eventually led to the big players like Nature and Science to start their open access journals, Scientific Reports (2011) and Science Advances (2014).

I want to explore the impact of a recent player in the open access game, eLife. Started with support from the Howard Huges Medical Institute, Max-Plank Institutes and the Wellcome Trust, this journal was started in 2012. The current editor-in-chief is Nobel Laureate Randy Schekman from the University of California at Berkeley. With a focus on rethinking the peer-review system, eLife claims to have created a system where the reviewers of a journal have a platform to discuss their perspectives of the the manuscript, and provide the editor with a single coherent set of feedback. The goal is to minimize conflicting reviews from the journal in the hope of streamlining the publication experience for authors by providing constructive and coherent reviews.

Aims and Scope

From the website,

eLife publishes outstanding research in the life sciences and biomedicine, from the most fundamental and theoretical work, through to translational, applied, and clinical research.

In accordance with this claim, the journal accepts publications in the following areas:

Biochemistry, Biophysics & Structural Biology, Cancer Biology, Cell Biology, Computational & Systems Biology, Developmental Biology and Stem Cells, Ecology, Epidemiology & Global Health, Genes & Chromosomes, Genomics & Evolutionary Biology, Human Biology and Medicine, Immunology, Microbiology and Infectious Disease, Neuroscience, Plant Biology

The reported an impact factor of 8.3 in 2015, but states on its website that it does not promote its impact factor. Many parts of the website focus on the new peer-review process, with a general emphasis on publishing faster with fewer hassles with the peer review process. Moreover, browsing the News section, it was interesting to note the journal’s continuing efforts to improve transparency in publishing, reproducibility of research, and a focus on quality of publications. Some of these include:

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