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Publishing research in high-impact factor journals 'poisons hiring and funding decisions' says eLife boss

eLife’s new editor-in-chief says the scientific community’s “addiction to high-impact factor journals poisons hiring and funding decisions”.

Michael Eisen, the editor-in-chief of eLife (7824901)
Michael Eisen, the editor-in-chief of eLife (7824901)

Dr Michael Eisen, an American computational biologist, said he is determined to help the Cambridge-based research communication organisation “ensure that everyone has access to the infrastructure needed to openly disseminate, review and curate” research literature.

eLife, a not-for-profit based at the Westbrook Centre, was founded in 2011 by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Max Planck Society and the Wellcome Trust​ with the aim of accelerating scientific discovery. It freely publishes peer-reviewed science and invests in open-source tool development.

Taking over from founding editor-in-chief Randy Schekman, Dr Eisen, from the University of California, Berkeley, and the HHMI, said: “I’m honoured to have been chosen for this role. We have made a lot of progress towards making publishing open, fair and effective, but so much remains to be done.

“The system remains slow and insanely expensive. Our addiction to high-impact factor journals poisons hiring and funding decisions, and distorts the research process. And, most frustratingly, the vast majority of the scientific and medical literature remains locked behind paywalls.

“I am excited to work with the staff and editors of eLife and the entire research community to finish the job we started two decades ago. Together we can build a publishing system driven not by profit, but by service to science, scientists and the public who make our work possible.”

He added: "The reputation eLife has developed as a publisher of outstanding research, innovator in peer review and publishing technology, and advocate for the values of the scientific community, as well as the continued support it receives from key research funders, has positioned the journal to be the key catalyst for transforming the publication of results in life science and biomedical research.”

Meanwhile, eLife has unveiled an open-source application to help guide scientists through the process of submitting their work for assessment.

Working in collaboration with the Collaborative Knowledge Foundation (Coko), it has launched the first release of Libero Reviewer.

The submission wizard promises an intuitive experience for scientists looking to submit their work for assessment by eLife’s senior editors, and integrates with its journal’s existing peer-review software eJournalPress (eJPress)

Design work has begun on the remainder of the editorial process, with additional releases planned for the coming months. Automated data extraction will be incorporated further into the full workflow.

Hannah Drury, eLife product manager, said: “We’ve been able to deliver this slice of the application thanks to the modular nature of the PubSweet framework it’s been built on. We mirrored this approach in our own development to ensure that each component can realistically add value in its own right. The result is an experience we can deliver to real users before the end-to-end application is ready. Their feedback will be crucial as we develop the later stages of the project.”

Kristen Ratan, co-founder and executive director of Coko, added: “We can see a world where modern, digital-first technologies will improve the entire scholarly communication landscape, and this launch brings us one step closer to achieving our vision. We’re looking forward to working with eLife on the remainder of the application, which will eventually support the other stages of the organisation’s editorial workflow through full submission, consultative peer review and final acceptance.”

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eLife announces partnership to develop research communications platform Libero

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