English: FDA poster warning against the use of...
English: FDA poster warning against the use of the Hoxsey method. Product of the Food and Drug Administration (U.S. government agency). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Funder-supported journals are just coming onto the scene. One of the most prominent — eLife — is billed as “a unique collaboration between funders and practitioners of research to communicate influential discoveries in the life and biomedical sciences in the most effective way.”

The word “collaboration” may be more loaded than intended.

Journals are supposed to provide disinterested evaluation of research papers in order to validate, filtrate, and designate them properly in the scholarly ecosystem, a process that often includes rejection or deep revision. Typically, funders aren’t allowed to influence publication decisions around research they’ve funded. In fact, even the appearance of funder influence can be deemed a conflict of interest (COI).

Editors who assume the helm of a journal typically have to rid themselves of any competing interests. One editor I worked with during his early tenure recused himself from evaluating papers from his past funders for 18 months after taking the helm. While he could probably have provided disinterested editorial oversight, the perception that he would be conflicted was too risky, so recusal from certain decisions was adopted for a year and a half.

Since eLife is aiming for biomedicine and for the top tier, it seems appropriate to refer to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) definition of COI:

Conflict of interest exists when an author (or the author’s institution), reviewer, or editor has financial or personal relationships that inappropriately influence (bias) his or her actions. . . . Financial relationships (such as employment, consultancies, stock ownership, honoraria, and paid expert testimony) are the most easily identifiable conflicts of interest and the most likely to undermine the credibility of the journal, the authors, and of science itself.

I was recently in Frankfurt, where Robert Kiley, a representative of the Wellcome Trust, gave a talk promoting eLife. It’s clearly a Wellcome-funded initiative. The editors are employees of eLife, as are the editorial staff. The organization is set up as a separate 501(c)3 registered in Delaware in the US, with another registration in the UK. Delaware is one of the two easiest states in the US to create a legal business entity (the other is Nevada). In addition to tax advantages, one major advantage of setting up a corporation in Delaware is that the directors or officers don’t need to live in Delaware.

So we have a clear ownership and funding arrangement — eLife receives funding from Wellcome, HHMI, and Max Planck; eLife hires editors and editorial staff with this funding; and eLife currently allows itself to review and will apparently allow itself to publish papers funded by its owners. In fact, one major motivation of starting eLife was apparently to make it more certain that papers funded by Wellcome and HHMI get published. As Kiley put it, “productivity” has gained preeminence as their goal. Publication is key to how they measure the productivity of their funding choices, and this productivity is used to get further funding.

The question this all raises is, Can the editors of eLife work for eLife while also evaluating and editing papers funded by Wellcome and HHMI?

They will certainly say that they can, but in the world of COI, it’s not for them to judge. Individuals or entities involved can’t assess their own COI exposures. External, independent people and organizations should do this. And this is exactly the problem — they are not in a position to judge.

A further reading of the ICMJE guidelines particular to editors and editorial staff illuminates the problem more clearly:

Editors who make final decisions about manuscripts must have no personal, professional, or financial involvement in any of the issues they might judge. Other members of the editorial staff, if they participate in editorial decisions, must provide editors with a current description of their financial interests (as they might relate to editorial judgments) and recuse themselves from any decisions in which a conflict of interest exists.

According to this, the editors of eLife should be recusing themselves from evaluating any papers funded by their employers. After all, they have a financial interest in publishing them — they are employed by the funders, and have a professional and financial interest in the outcome.

I was speaking about these issues with an editor from a high-profile journal. It became clear that this arrangement’s inherent COI will likely put authors in a tough spot:

  1. I received funding from Wellcome or HHMI.
  2. I did a study, and it turned out well.
  3. On the one hand, it makes a lot of sense to get the paper published in a very high-impact and prominent journal in the field I work in. On the other hand, HHMI and Wellcome have established a mega-journal of their own. Should I submit it to their journal? Will they punish me if I don’t? Or should I submit it to the top journal? Which path is better for my career?

This is not an easy dilemma for a researcher or research team to solve. I’d argue that it’s a position they shouldn’t be in. It’s directly derivative of a COI problem between the funders and eLife, a problem that exists in any version of the model behind eLife’s funding.

Of course, there’s another scenario for this thinking, one we can’t ignore:

  1. I received funding from Wellcome or HHMI.
  2. I did a study, and the results were weak.
  3. I can probably get it published pretty easily in my funders’ mega-journal, so I’ll do that.

Central to all of this is the issue of aligned interests, and that’s when the COI dimension becomes clearest. It’s well-known that there’s always a temptation and even a tendency for researchers to overstate their results — there are a lot of incentives driving this type of behavior, both intellectual and financial. These same incentives drive funders — they want the research they’ve funded to be as impactful as possible, both to validate their funding decisions and to attract future donations. Neither of these interests are scientific interests — they are personal, professional, and financial interests, which often conflict with scientific interests. Because the interests of authors and funders are so highly aligned, they need to be separated by an independent third party capable of objectively validating the results.

For the editors at eLife, it may not be clear which interests they are serving — author or funder/owner — because these interests are so similar and highly aligned. The authors and funders want as great an impact as possible. There is a significant sunk cost for the researchers — months and years of work, the effort of assembling and analyzing results, and the effort to write the paper. There is a significant sunk cost already from the funder’s perspective, and as the owner of the journal, this may be perceived as another source of bias. In the face of these strong financial, personal, and professional biases, there is an editorial staff employed by the funders themselves.

The typical defense in situations like this is, “It won’t happen here. We’ll regulate ourselves carefully, and monitor what we do.” The problem is that self-regulation doesn’t seem to work. Recently, in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed food companies to regulate themselves and conduct their own inspections. The result? More deaths from infected foods — cantaloupe, spinach, meat, and peanut butter.

David Kessler, former commissioner of the FDA, said this about the conflicts of interest this self-regulation approach has created in the financial markets:

There’s a fundamental conflict. We all know about third-party audit conflicts. We’ve seen it play out in the financial world. You can’t be tied to your auditors. There has to be independence.

Auditors were once “independent” in name only, which led to major problems in the financial markets. Not learning from that over the past decade, financial industry regulations were rolled back so that “market forces” could compete more effectively, with the result being too much risk, too little transparency, too much cronyism, and a worldwide economic meltdown. It’s pretty clear that creating unbroken lines from source to market is a bad idea.

There is a stalking question here, too — Can eLife and journals structured like it be perceived to fairly evaluate research coming from other funders? Why should Moore Foundation researchers believe they’ll get a fair shake from a journal funded by another group of funders? Will commercial funders feel they’ll receive an unbiased review from editorial staff effectively paid by other funders?

Disclosure is one way of dealing with COI — it at least informs readers that a potential conflict exists, and lets the reader judge for themselves whether that conflict is manifest in any way. The disclosure statement for eLife could be something like this, on every article:

Wellcome Trust [or HHMI, or both] funded this research, and also provides funding for the editors and editorial staff of eLife.

OA publishing has some new COI dimensions we need to grapple with. Should OA publishers tell readers who paid the article publication charges (APCs)? It has a bearing on perceptions of the interests behind the publication, so I think it’s a no-brainer — it’s clearly the best high-road action, and it’s very easy to do. Now, we see a larger COI issue arising as funders become publishers, fund research initiatives, and hire editorial staff to evaluate the reports they’ve funded. Should this be allowed? Will authors accept it? Should authors even have to feel incipient pressure from a conflicted business relationship?

To me, this is a clear case of improperly aligned incentives, and therefore should not be allowed to exist in scholarly publishing. We have enough scandals and failings already. A massive COI failing on the scale proposed by the existence of eLife is clearly a step too far.

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Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.

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Discussion

39 Thoughts on "Recuse, Refuse, or Excuse — The Conflicts of Interest at the Heart of Funder-Backed Journals"

1) Isn’t this very similar to what scholarly societies face when their members submit to their journals?
2) Is Kent Anderson really thinking that the Wellcome Trust, HHMI and the Max Planck Society might be tempted to expect – or even pressure – eLife to publish below-par articles just because the research or researcher is funded by them? Thinking that possibly to be the case may say more about Kent than about the funders, I’m afraid. It would be tantamount to expecting eLife to commit suicide.

Jan, I think you’re missing Kent’s argument, which he lays out pretty clearly: Conflicts of Interest need to be addressed by recusing oneself from professional duties and by declaring publicly one’s COI. Period.

The reality is a bit more nuanced than that, I think. COI is not a binary issue. Universities, for example, often allow employees to proceed under conditions of COI as long as the conflict is declared and appropriately managed. For example, faculty members may serve on the advisory boards of companies that do business with the university, and librarians regularly (actually, almost invariably) publish books and articles with publishers from whom they buy materials for the library. In both of those cases, there is a clear conflict of interest. But some COIs are more serious and problematic than others. I think we’d all agree that COIs should always be declared and dealt with. But sometimes “dealing with it” means saying “you need to resign from this board” and sometimes it means saying “that’s okay, this conflict isn’t severe enough to worry about.” For one example (of many) of the complexity and nuance involved with campus COI regs, see http://bit.ly/S3MAiF.

Yes, reality is more nuanced. I was responding to Jan Veltrop’s silly ad hominem attack on Kent above.

To 1), a member at a society joins for many benefits, and no member is in the position to act as an employer. This isn’t related.

To 2), Wellcome has stated directly that eLife was founded to increase the “productivity” of their funding. They are tying the two. “Kent Anderson” is not the only person who is seeing this as a conflict. I’ve heard it from many publishers and editors, but maybe I’ve taken the most time to explore the problem publicly. I otherwise agree with your point here.

eLife is edited by academics, not by employees of the journal. Indeed, one of the first announcements from Mark Walport stated: “the editorial team that will make decisions about whether or not a paper should be published in eLife will be composed of active researchers.”
http://wellcometrust.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/elife-a-journal-by-scientists-for-scientists/

You state that “In fact, one major motivation of starting eLife was apparently to make it more certain that papers funded by Wellcome and HHMI get published.”
I haven’t heard this before, and would be interested to know where this statement comes from. It seems to me that eLife will strive for high standards of editorial control to ensure that it gets the high impact factor it is desperate for.

Wellcome reps have said as much. I heard it last week, and others have heard it stated elsewhere.

Active researchers can have COIs. For example, someone who has received funding from a pharmaceutical company and who holds stock in that company has COIs that need to be declared publicly when publishing in medical journals. The rejection of professional editors by eLife really has no bearing on COIs. Indeed, one could argue that professional editors have fewer COIs than active researchers.

Phil,

Yes, researchers as well as anyone else can have COIs. Kent Anderson was referring to a specific conflict of interest. I think you can make a pretty good argument that having an independent researcher who is not paid by eLIFE or the foundations acting as a review editor and making the publication decision addresses this specific conflict of interest. eLife’s review process is described here.

http://www.elifesciences.org/the-journal/review-process/

Their review editors make publication decisions with the advice of peer reviewers just like any other journal. The list of review editors is here, for anyone to see.

http://www.elifesciences.org/about/elife-community/reviewing-editors/

Also there is disclosure. Nobody can claim anything is hidden here. It is completely out in the open who is funding the journal. Readers can make their own decisions about whether there is a COI.

Many of the comments seem, at least to me, to imply that eLIFE is going to mainly publish research funded by these foundations. There is nothing I can find on the web site to indicate that is the case. There is also no reason to assume researchers funded by these foundations will necessarily publish in eLIFE.

This just seems like a lot of noise about nothing.

I’ll jump in here. You say it’s all transparent and disclosed, but you never mention the Senior Editors. While there is disclosure for each of them, none mentions any conflict because eLife has been started by Wellcome and HHMI. This is a structural conflict, but one they don’t acknowledge. Sheckman has received funding from HHMI, and is now passing editorial judgment on HHMI papers in a journal funded by HHMI. HHmmmmmm. Watt has received funding from Wellcome but there is no mention that this creates a conflict for her working on papers funded by Wellcome in a journal funded by Wellcome. By definition, this is a conflict, but one they are pretending does not exist. When their salaries are posted in a couple of years, we’ll see.

As for the Reviewing Editors, there is no disclosure on what funding they are currently receiving, have received, or are applying for. With these two major funders involved, along with Max Planck, there is certainly some “conflict on the come” involved, as well. Too many rejections? No more funding for you. Already, these funders have shown that they are more than willing to lower the axe on perceived misbehavior regarding mandates. What’s to keep them from pushing some editors around?

If this were a commercial enterprise, how would you feel? If this weren’t an OA journal, how would you feel? If this didn’t create a clear conflict for authors (bow to funder or not), how would you feel?

This is to me a step too far. It makes funders the judge of their own research.

Kent,

Read the review process. The senior editors simply make the first cut on the manuscripts and assign them to a review editor if they feel they may be publishable. How is the COI you were referring to going to impact on that process? They might let a few manuscripts slip by that are questionable? It is the review editor that makes the final publication decision.

The review editor’s institutions are listed. They look to be from a wide range of very credible institutions. Their institutions pay the review editors salary.

Yes I am sure they are all credible researchers and probably have research grants. If they happen to have a grant from say Welcome and Welcome funds eLife that makes it a COI? That is silly.

Just a foot note to my comment above. Kent, what makes you think that these funders are hell-bent on publishing crappy research? They are about as reputable as you can get. The peer-review process for determining who gets funding is highly competitive in the first place and most of the research they fund is going to be high quality. Why would they want to tarnish eLife and their own reputation publishing low quality research when they will clearly have lots of high quality research to publish? It just doesn’t make any sense.

I think these funders are committed to getting their reports published because they’ve said so. And I don’t think they are “as reputable as you can get.” If they were, why create a cozy and somewhat improper relationship over an editorial function and journal? Why not just support APCs and keep funding good research? That step alone says a lot, and their words — promotional of eLife, clearly hoping eLife provides them a clearer path to publication than other journals — only confirm their actions.

Who said anything about publishing crappy research? Here is the problem: unless you assume that eLife will publish everything that is deemed acceptable for publication, there will be choices made among articles that may be equally deserving of publication. Which articles do you think will be finally published from among that set–those funded by the sponsoring funders or those not so funded? It’s just like college admissions: not everyone who qualifies for admission can be admitted, so then other factors come into play, like whether a student is a legacy or not, which has nothing to do with academic merit.

Seriously? Re-read your comment. “The senior editors simply make the first cut of the manuscripts . . . ” What position is more important, more influential, over what ultimately gets published?

The review editors’ institutions don’t shield them from COI. Researchers with financial and intellectual COIs exist at all institutions. The MDs who were listed as editorial boards on the Elsevier fake journals all came from credible institutions. It’s that credibility they can trade on to conceal other COIs.

There are structural aspects of these COI issues for eLife you can’t get around. Each researcher probably has the aspiration to be funded by Wellcome or HHMI or Max Planck again, so they are beholden to that aspiration, if nothing else. That’s a conflict of interest right there. The people holding the funding purse-strings shouldn’t be overseeing a journal’s editorial review process through financial relationships.

I worked as an editor for years with this system. Senior editors make the first cut to efficiently reject manuscripts that are clearly not publishable which is better for everyone. The review editors do the actual peer review and make the hard decisions about what actually gets published.

Having funders fund publication directly makes lots of sense. Of course these funders want their research published and are motivated to make publishing as efficient as possible. eLife makes that very clear, Dissemination is the goal of research. At the same time they are just as motivated to ensure that it is quality research that reflects well on the funder and on the journal.

There is also no financial COI for the funder. A foundation like Howard Hughes is already funded from their endowment. There goal is to spend the income off their endowment wisely. Again, what motivation would they have to publish crappy research that tarnishes their reputation? eLife has made it very clear they are aiming to be a top tier journal. How are they going to do that publishing junk no other reputable journal will publish as you seem to imply. How is this in the interest of these funding agencies?

Paying APCs to a publisher instead just creates potential financial COIs and increases costs by putting another layer in the system especially when they are commercial publishers. Their researches always have the option of doing that anyway. eLife just gives them and researchers funded by other means another attractive option for disseminating their research.

In response to Sandy Thatcher’s post above:

From Kent’s original post,”Of course, there’s another scenario for this thinking, one we can’t ignore:

I received funding from Wellcome or HHMI.
I did a study, and the results were weak.
I can probably get it published pretty easily in my funders’ mega-journal, so I’ll do that.”

Perhaps “crappy” was a bad choice of words but the implication is clear.

It’s not my role to speak for the publishers at eLife but why wouldn’t they publish everything that is deemed “acceptable” when the bar for acceptable is set very high as they appear to be doing. This isn’t admitting candidates to school where there is a fixed number of slots. Of course there are incremental costs to publishing additional articles but in the scheme of the full cost of the research they are trivial.

They already published an article funded by foundation.

Why shouldn’t a major funder or funders have their own “house journal”? There may be something useful in something midway between an independent journal and institutional preprints and research reports. Ultimately, the reputation will be determined by the quality of the publications. Time will tell.

What I hear Kent suggesting is not necessarily that eLife be abolished, but rather that its inherent COI be openly acknowledged so that readers can read the articles with the COI in mind.

One problem with this is it makes it more difficult for the foundation to accurately judge the quality of the work they’re funding. The current journal system offers a means of having independent reviewers make judgements as to the novelty and value of the research results. If all funded results are dumped into the same bucket, then one can’t differentiate between the researchers doing better work (and deserving more funding) and those whose promise hasn’t paid off.

And as an extension, it makes it a problem for research universities to evaluate the merit of a faculty member’s work when publication provides the same information as funding.

In the world of university press publishing, there has long existed a bias against a scholar publishing with the university press at his or her home institution, for fear that this may be perceived as a quasi-vanity publication. Indeed, some presses, like California, originated as service agencies to publish the writings of their own faculty, and there must have been some concern that a conflict of interest was involved here. Just as for the funders of eLife, the UC system wanted its in-house operation to help ensure greater productivity. As scholarly publishing developed, presses began to specialize in fields to achieve greater economic efficiency and thus operated like normal publishers, but the perception of COI still lingered for faculty publishing with their home press even if it had a good reputation in the field the faculty were publishing in. That probably explains why, for most presses, no more than 10% of their books come from their home faculty. The reality is, owing to this perceived bias, most presses have been probably even more careful with home faculty to make sure the review process did not favor them in any way, bending over backwards to maintain the highest standards and not giving any break to home faculty. Perhaps the eLife editors will feel that same pressure and act as university press editors have? Of course, there is no way of knowing when they do.

It seems to me that Welcome could and should avoid all implications to funding a journal dedicated in some way to making its activities known by simply going to an established journal publisher and saying we want to fund a journal. Here are some dollars.

The look of imporpriety is just as bad as the act.

I am curious why they did not go to PlOs whom they have funded.

Kent, I’d like to respond to your post and respectfully correct a number of inaccuracies.

eLife is not, as you suggest, effectively a “house journal” of the funders where their funded researchers can publish either to satisfy the funders or because it is editorially biased towards them. Far from it: eLife’s raison d’etre is to publish the best science – period. Your assertion that the driver for helping to establish eLife was “to make it more certain that papers funded by the Wellcome and HHMI get published” is not only factual nonsense (look at the eLife website) but, from the point of view of the founding partners in eLife, totally self-defeating. The real test of eLife will be in how it is regarded by the scientific community, and if the science published in eLife is not top class, the journal will fail.

Regarding Conflicts of Interest, of course the funders are aware of the potential for conflicts, but please be assured that the funders have absolutely no say in what gets published (or what gets rejected). All editorial decisions are taken by the Editor in Chief with support from his Editorial Board. Details of the Senior Editorial Team (21 members) and the Board of Reviewing Editors (175 members) can be found at http://www.elifesciences.org/about/elife-community/editorial-leadership/ and http://www.elifesciences.org/about/elife-community/reviewing-editors/ respectively. No attempt has been made to hide the fact that eLife is being funded by Wellcome, HHMI and MPS. Every article published in eLife will include details of the research funder. By way of example, one of the first articles published by eLife arose as a result of research funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the NIH. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3463246/

For further information about eLife, please see the Editorial from Randy Schekman at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3467772/

Robert

PS The slides I spoke to at Frankfurt are available at: http://www.stm-assoc.org/2012_10_09_Frankfurt_Conference_Kiley_Driving_Change_funders_as_catalyst.pdf

A hand on the shoulder is as effective as anything.

To the main question, Why fund eLife in the first place if high-quality and independent review, and rapid publication, is available now? Clearly, the funders have an agenda that is somewhat different.

Oh, my gosh. This is silly. Of course eLife is a house journal. It’s funded by Wellcome et al. That makes it a house journal. It’s a matter of definition.

It is not a house journal as that term is normally used. See for example http://www.encyclo.co.uk/define/House%20journal.

House journals and now blogs are written for the employees and/or for promotional purposes. eLife is trying to be a real journal which is very different. Ownership is not sufficient to make it a house journal.

I agree that eLife faces a bit of challenge in establishing to researchers that it is not the house journal of HHMI/Wellcome/MPI. I would say that I know the people involved to be exceptionally scrupulous people who have the highest standards, but you won’t (and shouldn’t) take my word for it (especially since I also have an apparent COI, being funded by HHMI, being a colleague of the head of the journal and a former employers of several of the staff). And it is worth noting that there is a strong incentive for everyone involved to make the journal successful, which it will not be if there is even a whiff of bias involved.

But it is important to note that the COI you point to here is intrinsic to science. Virtually everyone who reviews grants for the NIH is funded by the NIH – it would be impossible for it not to be so. This creates an omnipresent COI in which people, both in public and in the “private” setting of grant review, are reluctant to overly criticize NIH-funded research for fear of biting the hand that feeds them. I raise this both because I think it’s a real problem, but also because I think scientists actually do a pretty good job of compartmentalizing the evaluation of their colleagues works, even when this kind of funder-level COI is involved. That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t watch out for COI, but it gives me confidence that it won’t be a problem here.

I’m not sure I buy into the COI worries here, at least not so far that I’m not willing to give eLife the benefit of the doubt until they start publishing and we can see what they’re actually doing. Having worked for two university presses, I can absolutely guarantee that it is possible to build a firewall between editorial and institutional agendas. No journal at CSHL Press gives any preference or special standing to papers that are submitted by CSHL-based authors. Ditto for Oxford University Press, no special help is offered to authors from Oxford.

I fail to see why the same sorts of firewalls couldn’t be employed here.

I also think there are a variety of agendas at work behind eLife, and it’s unfair to characterize the journal as existing solely to disseminate work funded by the agencies backing it. One is simply to further the growth of Open Access. Perhaps more importantly, eLife seems an experiment at a different way of doing OA, an attempt to find a way to create a high quality, high rejection rate, “glamour” journal that’s fully OA. Other agendas include experiments to improve or at least alter the peer review process, to change the speed of publication for high end journals, and to move those types of journals out of the hands of professional editors and into the hands of editors who are working scientists.

There’s a lot going on here, even some activities that seem contradictory (adding in extra steps to the peer review process yet also striving for a faster process as one example). The proof is going to be in the pudding, but I don’t feel it’s right to think of the journal as a cynical means of self-promotion for private funding agencies. Given their already lofty status, I’m not sure what would be in it for them.

I agree David that the COI issue seems overblown here. The various comments above make it clear that there are many shared interests and synergies in the system. For that matter gold OA may be said to have COI built in, but new forms are on the march. It is possible that the COI concepts based on the subscription model are obsolete.

David,

Minor point on the impact of a two-step review. I think a lot of journals use this model and in my experience it actually streamlines and speeds the process up. A lot of manuscripts clearly are not a good fit for whatever reason and that can be picked up in a quick read or even just from the abstract. A managing editor can quickly take care of these with a short letter to the author. The author knows right away so they can move on submit elsewhere else. It’s better all around

It is very helpful to have a large cadre of review editors. Manuscripts tend to come in bunches for some reason and there is definitely a cyclical yearly pattern. A large group of editors can more easily absorb the load and if someone is too busy or has a conflict there is someone else who can take on managing the review and manuscripts don’t stack up. I think in the long run it is a lot more efficient and in most cases faster. Downside is trying to ensure consistency across reviews with different review editors.

I wasn’t referring to the initial triage done by the journal’s editor/s before things go out for review. That is indeed standard practice at most journals and very helpful in terms of speed as well as providing a service to authors.

What I was referring to was more the proposed process where the group of peer reviewers will each do an independent review, then these reviews will be shared with one another, the group will meet to discuss the reviews, and a final, consensus document will be created. That adds in additional steps that may likely draw out the process.

They intend to do it in 4 weeks based on the description of the process. If they can mange that then it would be a fast review. I agree that may be tough with busy schedules so I guess we will see. I think it is an interesting model if the eLife can make it work. It is nice to see publishers innovating and trying new models for both publishing and review.

Is that 4 weeks total, or 4 weeks after they sign on reviewers? Either way, it’s definitely an interesting experiment and may add something to the peer review process. It is not, however, likely to speed things up, given people’s busy schedules.

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