Journal submission process – What it has been & What it might become
From 31 January 2023, eLife, a peer reviewed, open-access journal in life sciences and medicine, will adopt a new “publish, review, curate” model for article publishing. There will still be the peer review process, but no more post-peer review accept/reject decisions. Instead, all papers that have undergone peer review will be published in eLife. They called the papers “Reviewed Preprints”, which will be accompanied by an eLife assessment and public reviews. The authors can also include a response to the assessment and reviews.
Most academic journals publish in a relatively traditional form: being highly selective, possibly imposing article processing charges (APC) for open access articles, and building scientific rigor via the collaborative peer review process (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Submission process of a traditional highly selective journal with peer review
If the peer review process is new to you, read this book chapter:
McGregor, S. L. T. (2018). Peer-Reviewed Journals. In S. L. T. McGregor (Ed.), Understanding and Evaluating Research: A Critical Guide (pp. 121-136). SAGE Publications. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781071802656
In the traditional model, research manuscripts may be rejected before the peer review process. One common reason is being categorized as “unsuitable or beyond the scope of the journal” (Ali, 2010). After peer review, as described in Springer Nature’s Author tutorials – Writing a journal manuscript, the manuscripts may be rejected for reasons such as:
- Incomplete data
- Poor analysis
- Inappropriate methodology
- Weak research motive
- Inaccurate conclusions (Springer Nature).
The acceptance rates vary considerably among different journals. For example, in 2021, the Accept Rates of Science and Science Robotics were as follows:
Table 1: Submissions and acceptance rate of Science and Science Robotics (AAAS)
The Accept Rate is the percentage of manuscripts accepted by journal, calculated by dividing the number of manuscripts with an accept decision by the total number of manuscripts with a final decision.
[Image curtesy of いらすとや]
Even if a manuscript is rejected by a certain journal, it is not necessarily the end of the manuscript. An author invigorates himself/herself, reads the manuscript again, considering if it could be improved in any way, along with the comments of the reviewers. The author might improve upon the manuscript and send it to the same journal again, or try and find a better match (Ali, 2010).
eLife’s new publishing model
In eLife’s “publish, review, curate” model to be rolled-out in January 2023, eLife will no longer make accept/reject decisions after peer review. All papers that have been peer reviewed will be published on the eLife website as “Reviewed Preprints”, accompanied by an eLife Assessment and public reviews. Authors can also include responses to the assessment and reviews. The authors can decide whether to revise and resubmit, or to declare the papers as the final Version of Record (VOR) (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Submission process in eLife’s “publish, review, curate” model (eLife, 2022)
With the new publishing model, eLife aims to combine the immediacy and openness of preprints with the scrutiny of peer review by experts. They hope to expedite the process by getting rid of pre-publication peer review and the whole “submit – review – accept/reject – repeat” paradigm. They believe this is a more transparent, faster and fairer way to publish research.
Today, we’re introducing a new model that eliminates accept/reject decisions.— eLife – the journal (@eLife) October 20, 2022
By publishing every paper with eLife reviews as a Reviewed Preprint, we plan to restore autonomy to authors, ensuring that they will be judged by what, not where, they publish. https://t.co/OAsiOVFStI pic.twitter.com/lhnNElQp7y
This move has created a lot of discussions, such as the replies to eLife’s tweet announcing the change. A number of tweets are in support of the change, e.g.:
- “Makes a lot of sense to me. Let the readers decide what is good science. Time will tell us what is impactful.” (Gottardo)
- “I applaud this bold step and look forward to seeing the outcome.” (Allen)
On the other hand, many others express concern, e.g.:
- “Not convinced, tbh. Do I understand well that: 1) a paper sent for review is published regardless of reviews; 2) it isn’t essential for authors to review the paper following ref reports: it is published anyway; 3) authors pay upfront as paper goes to review” (Polin)
- “Academic editors will become the gatekeepers of eLife without input from outside expert reviewers. This will increase their responsibility and susceptibility to “political” pressure of what gets in.” (Mossong)
- “@biorxivpreprint + editorial acceptance + formatting + peer review = eLife. But many papers already in @biorxivpreprint or @medrxivpreprint already – why don’t just add reviews there?” (De La Vega)
While we do not know, at the moment, whether this new model proposed by eLife will work out and achieve the goal, it is still fascinating to see a bold attempt by publishers in making academic journal publishing more open, fast, fair, and transparent.
AAAS. Journal metrics. Retrieved 21 November 2022 from https://www.science.org/content/page/journal-metrics
Ali, J. (2010). Manuscript rejection: causes and remedies. Journal of Young Pharmacists, 2(1), 3-6. https://doi.org/10.4103/0975-1483.62205
Allen, M. [@micahgallen]. (21 October 2022). I applaud this bold step and look forward to seeing the outcome. [Tweet]. Twitter. Retrieved 21 November 2022 from https://twitter.com/micahgallen/status/1583210891201245184
De La Vega, F. [@ribozyme]. (21 October 2022). @biorxivpreprint + editorial acceptance + formatting + peer review = eLife. But many papers already in @biorxivpreprint or @medrxivpreprint already [Tweet]. Twitter. Retrieved 21 November 2022 from https://twitter.com/ribozyme/status/1583299517394219008
eLife. (2022). eLife’s New Model: Changing the way you share your research. Retrieved 21 November 2022 from https://elifesciences.org/inside-elife/54d63486/elife-s-new-model-changing-the-way-you-share-your-research
Gottardo, R. [@raphg]. (20 October 2022). Makes a lot of sense to me. Let the readers decide what is good science. Time will tell us what [Tweet]. Twitter. Retrieved 21 November 2022 from https://twitter.com/raphg/status/1583067153879928832
Mossong, J. [@joel_mossong]. (21 October 2022). Academic editors will become the gatekeepers of eLife without input from outside expert reviewers. This will increase their responsibility and [Tweet]. Twitter. Retrieved 21 November 2022 from https://twitter.com/joel_mossong/status/1583363953958080512
Polin, M. [@PolinMarco]. (21 October 2022). Not convinced, tbh. Do I understand well that: 1) a paper sent for review is published regardless of reviews; 2)it [Tweet]. Twitter. Retrieved 21 November 2022 from https://twitter.com/PolinMarco/status/1583190147394203649
Springer Nature. Common reasons for rejection Retrieved 21 November 2022 from https://www.springer.com/gp/authors-editors/authorandreviewertutorials/submitting-to-a-journal-and-peer-review/what-is-open-access/10285582