Three of the world’s leading research funding agencies – the Wellcome Trust, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and the Max Planck Society – announced plans in June 2011 to launch a major open-access research journal covering life and biomedical sciences.
Their goal is to develop an initiative in research communication whose primary motivation is to serve the interests of science, and to catalyse widespread improvement of the current system for disseminating and sharing of new research findings.
For several years, the three organisations have supported and advocated the development of open-access publishing, which removes access and reuse barriers to published results. Despite much progress, the volume of open-access literature still represents only about 10% of the whole. Access to the vast majority of the literature and its reuse, for example for teaching and outreach, is therefore restricted.
There are many other ways in which journal publishing is not taking full advantage of the potential of digital media. For example, the length, format and quantity of online articles published in many journals are unnecessarily constrained by their print edition, which need not be the case in an era of digital communication. Publishing also remains a slow (and often painful) process that frequently involves multiple rounds of manuscript review and revision, and delays the communication of new findings.
To address some of the current inefficiencies in journal publishing and to progress towards processes and approaches that fully exploit digital media, the three founding funders of eLife are now taking direct action by establishing a new publishing initiative.