The Pleasure of Publishing. Malhotra, V. and Marder, E. eLife, 4:e05770+, January, 2015.
doi  abstract   bibtex   
When assessing manuscripts eLife editors look for a combination of rigour and insight, along with results and ideas that make other researchers think differently about their subject. [Excerpt] The senior editors at eLife are often asked: 'Where is the bar for an eLife paper?' Another frequent question is: 'Why should I submit my best work to eLife?' The second of these questions is not surprising because it is human nature to be wary of anything new and challenging. The first question has its origins in our collective experience of trying to publish in journals that became very exclusive in the days when print and distribution costs limited the number of papers and pages that journals could publish. Here we prefer to explain what we think makes a paper suitable for eLife, and how the journal's peer review process works. [\n] For us, the ideal eLife paper presents an accurate description of data that makes others in the field think differently and moves the field forward. An eLife paper should give the reader the pleasure of reading about elegant or clever experiments, of learning something new, of being challenged to think about their subject in a new way, or of seeing a particularly stunning image that has meaning because it shows some of the secrets of life. Our goal at eLife is to publish papers that our reviewers and editors find authoritative, rigorous, insightful, enlightening or just beautiful. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and ideas about what is beautiful can change over time. Nonetheless, some things will always be truly beautiful, such as great art and great music, and the same is true for great science. Happily, eLife has no restrictions on how many papers we can publish, or any strictures on how many we should reject. Consequently, our editorial challenge is to recognize excellent papers and to encourage authors, reviewers and editors to divest ourselves of the behaviours that have diminished the pleasure of doing science and publishing the results. [...] [\n] The eLife editorial process is designed so that each manuscript is handled by an editor who is able to evaluate the science themself. Moreover, after the last review has been received, each reviewer is asked to comment on the other reviews: for manuscripts that have been favourably reviewed, the aim of this consultation process is to agree what revisions are essential to ensure acceptance of a revised manuscript. The authors then receive a decision letter explaining the revisions that are required, rather than being asked to respond to two or three reviewer reports that may be inconsistent with each other, and possibly even contradictory. [\n] What have we learned after two years of publishing at eLife? The most common complaint from reviewers is that authors are overselling their work. We understand that competition for funding and pages in prestige journals has taught authors to frame their work in the most globally ambitious terms. However, there is a fine line between trying to express in a crisp and compelling manner the contribution made by a manuscript and making claims that are beyond what the manuscript does or could do. [...] [\n] An on-going problem is that reviewers have become accustomed to asking for more experiments. eLife's policy is to respect the authors' vision of what they want their paper to be, and to assume that they have thought hard about how far to take a given story. The job of editors and reviewers is to decide if this vision is publishable or not: it is not the job of the editor or reviewer to define the scope of the paper. [...] It is sad that our younger scientists have only known a world in which it is assumed that reviewers always have to ask for substantial new experiments.
@article{malhotraPleasurePublishing2015,
  title = {The Pleasure of Publishing},
  author = {Malhotra, Vivek and Marder, Eve},
  year = {2015},
  month = jan,
  volume = {4},
  pages = {e05770+},
  issn = {2050-084X},
  doi = {10.7554/elife.05770},
  abstract = {When assessing manuscripts eLife editors look for a combination of rigour and insight, along with results and ideas that make other researchers think differently about their subject.

[Excerpt] The senior editors at eLife are often asked: 'Where is the bar for an eLife paper?' Another frequent question is: 'Why should I submit my best work to eLife?' The second of these questions is not surprising because it is human nature to be wary of anything new and challenging. The first question has its origins in our collective experience of trying to publish in journals that became very exclusive in the days when print and distribution costs limited the number of papers and pages that journals could publish. Here we prefer to explain what we think makes a paper suitable for eLife, and how the journal's peer review process works.

[\textbackslash n] For us, the ideal eLife paper presents an accurate description of data that makes others in the field think differently and moves the field forward. An eLife paper should give the reader the pleasure of reading about elegant or clever experiments, of learning something new, of being challenged to think about their subject in a new way, or of seeing a particularly stunning image that has meaning because it shows some of the secrets of life. Our goal at eLife is to publish papers that our reviewers and editors find authoritative, rigorous, insightful, enlightening or just beautiful. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and ideas about what is beautiful can change over time. Nonetheless, some things will always be truly beautiful, such as great art and great music, and the same is true for great science. Happily, eLife has no restrictions on how many papers we can publish, or any strictures on how many we should reject. Consequently, our editorial challenge is to recognize excellent papers and to encourage authors, reviewers and editors to divest ourselves of the behaviours that have diminished the pleasure of doing science and publishing the results. [...]

[\textbackslash n] The eLife editorial process is designed so that each manuscript is handled by an editor who is able to evaluate the science themself. Moreover, after the last review has been received, each reviewer is asked to comment on the other reviews: for manuscripts that have been favourably reviewed, the aim of this consultation process is to agree what revisions are essential to ensure acceptance of a revised manuscript. The authors then receive a decision letter explaining the revisions that are required, rather than being asked to respond to two or three reviewer reports that may be inconsistent with each other, and possibly even contradictory.

[\textbackslash n] What have we learned after two years of publishing at eLife? The most common complaint from reviewers is that authors are overselling their work. We understand that competition for funding and pages in prestige journals has taught authors to frame their work in the most globally ambitious terms. However, there is a fine line between trying to express in a crisp and compelling manner the contribution made by a manuscript and making claims that are beyond what the manuscript does or could do. [...]

[\textbackslash n] An on-going problem is that reviewers have become accustomed to asking for more experiments. eLife's policy is to respect the authors' vision of what they want their paper to be, and to assume that they have thought hard about how far to take a given story. The job of editors and reviewers is to decide if this vision is publishable or not: it is not the job of the editor or reviewer to define the scope of the paper. [...] It is sad that our younger scientists have only known a world in which it is assumed that reviewers always have to ask for substantial new experiments.},
  journal = {eLife},
  keywords = {*imported-from-citeulike-INRMM,~INRMM-MiD:c-13480590,epistemology,peer-review,publication-bias,science-ethics},
  lccn = {INRMM-MiD:c-13480590}
}
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