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Publishing

Peer review shake-up on trial at eLife

by Katharine Sanderson
July 15, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 29

The life sciences journal eLife is trying out a radical approach to peer review. Rather than deciding whether to publish a paper after peer review, an editor’s decision to send a paper for peer review will be a commitment to eventually publish it. The trial is optional and aims to recruit 300 papers. In the trial, the editor and referees will agree on what they want authors to address. The authors can then make revisions, including more experiments; respond to criticisms; or withdraw the paper completely. The referee reports, editor’s decision letter, and authors’ response will be published alongside the final article. Reviewers can choose whether to remain anonymous. The aim is to give more power to authors, say eLife editors Mark Patterson and Randy Schekman in an editorial. They also hope it will strengthen the review process, with referees gaining a reputation for the advice they give. Observers welcome the trial with caution. Raghuveer Parthasarathy, a physicist from the University of Oregon, worries that journal editors sifting through initial submissions are given more power. “It may bias the system further towards flashy papers from well-connected authors,” he says.

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