Emma Smith,1 Andy Collings1
In 2020, eLife piloted a review process in which peer reviews were posted publicly to preprints while manuscripts were simultaneously evaluated for publication. This pilot built on a 2018 eLife trial that published all reviewed submissions and found that a lower percentage of submissions were sent for peer review in the pilot process compared with the regular process.1,2 An exploratory descriptive analysis was performed, comparing decision outcomes in the 2020 pilot with the regular process and checking for outcome disparities between senior author demographic characteristics.
Between March 2020 and November 2020, authors could opt into the preprint review process during submission. In this process, authors committed to publicly posting the reviews alongside their preprint, irrespective of eLife’s decision. As an incentive, authors bypassed triage unless the editors found fundamental flaws. Data on submission outcomes were retrieved from eLife’s submission system. The senior author’s demographic information was provided by the submitting author via an optional survey. The percentages of reviewed and accepted submissions were compared between the preprint review and the regular review processes. This comparison was also performed based on the senior author’s gender and geographic region.
eLife received 420 preprint review and 6397 regular submissions. A higher percentage of preprint review submissions (345 [82.1%]) were reviewed relative to regular submissions (2057 [32.2%]). A higher percentage of preprint review submissions were also accepted (96 [22.9%]) compared with regular submissions (1071 [16.7%]). A slightly higher percentage of preprint review submissions from women senior authors were reviewed compared with men (Table 61). There was little difference in the percentage of submissions accepted based on the senior author’s gender for regular submissions (Table 61). In both processes, the highest percentages of submissions reviewed and accepted were from senior authors in North America, and the lowest percentages were from Asia (Table 61). A higher percentage of submissions were accepted from Asia in the preprint review process relative to the regular process, although few senior authors from Asia submitted to preprint review (n = 23), so these results must be interpreted with caution.
A higher percentage of preprint review submissions were reviewed and accepted, which suggests that improving access to peer review may provide a mechanism to mitigate bias in publishing. However, large differences in the number of submissions between the preprint review and regular processes and some small preprint review sample sizes limit the analysis that could be performed and conclusions that can be drawn. Future initiatives should take greater care to engage broader communities, especially in Asia. These results informed eLife’s shift to a “publish, then review” model of publishing.3
1. Eisen MB. Peer review: new initiatives to enhance the value of eLife’s process. Inside eLife. November 7, 2019. Accessed June 8, 2022. https://elifesciences.org/inside-elife/e9091cea/peer-review-new-initiatives-to-enhance-the-value-of-elife-s-proces
2. Smith E, Collings A. Peer review: first results from a trial at eLife. Inside eLife. January 7, 2019. Accessed June 8, 2022. https://elifesciences.org/inside-elife/262c4c71/peer-review-first-results-from-a-trial-at-elife
3. Eisen MB, Akhmanova A, Behrens B, Harper DM, Weigel D, Zaidi M. Peer review: implementing a “publish, then review” model of publishing. eLife. 2020;9:e64910. doi:10.7554/eLife.64910
1eLife Sciences Publications, Cambridge, UK, firstname.lastname@example.org
Conflict of Interest Disclosures
The authors thank Peter Rodgers (eLife’s features editor) for comments and suggestions.