OA interviews: Mark Patterson, eLife

Share this on social media:

With the raft of policies and mandates that impact researchers and their institutions Sian Harris asks a range of publishers and publishing services companies about their approaches to open access

Mark Patterson, executive director, eLife

In 2003 when I started at Public Library of Science (PLOS) it was a very different world from when I helped launch eLife in 2011. A lot of authors these days have an idea of OA. It is becoming much more mainstream.

The launch of the mega-journal PLOS One was saying ‘we can do things fundamentally differently’. It’s clearly succeeded and been copied by a lot of other publishers. It was a really interesting development and it makes sense for any journal online. At eLife, although we are very selective, we are also imagining that we could become a very big journal.

We are seeing a very healthy rise in submissions and now get more than 200 per month. The other side of this is the quality and editors are generally very happy with the quality. If papers are judged to be good enough we can publish them. At the moment we publish 30 to 40 per month.

OA is just a kind of given. When the three funders [that set up eLife] were having their initial conversations, the topic barely came up. Because we are fully funded, we don’t have to charge APCs at the moment but I don’t know how much difference that makes. It’s likely we will introduce publication fees.

Everything could and should be OA. We see our job as to deliver content to everywhere it could be useful, including PubMed Central, Europe PubMed Central, our site and github.

Repositories are very interesting and we are exploring how publishers can help populate them. With eLife it is possible for authors to deposit on acceptance. We follow up with the version of record; the versions have the same DOI but can be clearly distinguished. This is becoming more common.

There is a huge amount of transition going on with journals. We’ve got to first base but there’s much more we can do to develop much more dynamic platforms for research communication. For example, we want to make it possible for authors to add to their stories, but how would that factor into things like publication fees? 

One of the challenges we have is to quantify the amount of OA available. One of the key things for the research community is if you make research fully open you turn it into a raw material and can find connections that you never could before. eLife content will become part of that activity.

We are very supportive of open data. We require all the key data to be open, ideally with a CC0 licence, although there are some obvious examples where that can’t be the case. We aren’t insisting on a particular mechanism to make that available. For every major dataset used – whether generated by, or used in their work – they have to list where it is and who’s responsible for it.

If editors feel that data is available only on very restrictive terms that will enter into the editorial process.