Culham appointed to new, innovative journal

eLife, a new high-profile, open-access biomedical journal, has just been launched with Western professor Jody Culham on its Board of Reviewing Editors. Culham, a professor affiliated with the Brain and Mind Institute, the Department of Psychology and the Graduate Program in Neuroscience at Western, served as a reviewing editor for one of the first papers to be published in eLife.

Culham wrote an eLife preview piece about the upcoming article she reviewed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Germany. The German researchers showed that contrary to past research and the commonly accepted wisdom, driving in fog does not make drivers speed up but rather slows them down.

The journal provides a new model for scientific publishing.

“I think many researchers would agree that, although the traditional peer-review model has considerable merit, there is much room for improvement in the ‘Publishing 2.0’ revolution,” Culham said. “I accepted the invitation to be a reviewing editor at eLife because I believe that scientists, rather than for-profit companies, must control publishing to remedy many of the current problems while taking advantage of the move to open-access publishing.”

The eLife initiative was backed three funding agencies – the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Max Planck Society and Wellcome Trust – that also thought the time was right for a new publishing model for all bioscientists, not just those funded by those agencies.

According to the journal, eLife aims to be “a top-tier open-access journal covering basic biological research through to applied, translational and clinical studies.”

In addition to being run by scientists and providing open access, eLife aims to “make decisions quickly; deliver a fair, transparent and supportive author experience; and create maximum potential exposure for published works.”

Culham’s experiences as a reviewing editor suggest the new model has much promise.

“Rather than being mere ‘vote-counters’ as is commonplace in many journals in my field, reviewing editors at eLife take an active and supportive role in the process,” she said. “This includes not just reviewing each of the papers that comes across their virtual desks, but integrating comments from all reviewers into one coherent, constructive response letter to the authors.”

The first eLife articles have just appeared online and the journal website will be launched this winter. The launch of eLife is garnering attention from other journals such as Nature and from popular media such as Wired magazine.