A new study from Stanford molecular and cellular physiologist Axel Brunger, PhD, and colleagues clears up a controversy in the neuroscience community by pinpointing a critical feature of the mechanism by which our nerve cells manage to talk to one another in something approaching real time. If that conversation were stuck in slo-mo, the distinction between brain and blob would vanish.
While the study is noteworthy in itself, the fact that its findings appear in the first issue of eLife, a newly launched open-access journal, rather than Science or Nature is also significant. As a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator with close to 250 peer-reviewed publications under his belt, Brunger is hardly hard-up for high-rated scientific outlets. But his experience, he tells me, has made it clear that "our peer-reviewed publication system is in a state of crisis."
It seems other scientists feel the same. A University of Montreal study published in November concluded that the most prestigious journals were publishing fewer and fewer of the most frequently cited articles.
“For many ‘high-impact factor’ journals, initial triaging and final decisions aren’t made by active scientists,” says Brunger. “That’s not to say that these journals don’t publish excellent work, but the criteria for acceptance seem rather arbitrary and random.”
The brainchild of three heavyweight research-funding entities – HHMI, the Max Planck Society, and Wellcome Trust – eLife is not only open-access, but publication-immediately-upon-acceptance and embargo-free. (Not to mention just plain free, for both authors and readers.) Brunger’s is one of a score or so of research papers selected for eLife’s first issue, which published today.
Photo by mikebaird