eLife was founded in 2011 by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society and the Wellcome Trust as a non-profit organisation whose mission is to help scientists accelerate discovery by operating a platform for research communication that encourages and recognises the most responsible behaviours in science. eLife publishes important research in all areas of the life and biomedical sciences as Open Access while, at the same time, also investing in innovation primarily through open-source tools development to accelerate research communication and discovery.
The first version of their publishing and hosting solution was assembled by integrating existing components that were readily available so that they could get up and running very quickly. However, many of the components that were available are not well suited to open access publishing models. eLife originally engaged with Digirati in 2015 to bring a broader range of experience including user experience and technical capabilities to augment the in-house team and working together closely, using lean agile techniques, deliver a solution that provides an improved, flexible, maintainable system to better meet the needs of users.
Key project objectives included working with open source solutions, utilising cloud services and delivering the implementation with a strong focus on testing and test automation to ensure the overall maintainability and robustness of the solution. The new system was called Continuum (it is now known as Libero) and it was later released as open source for potential reuse by other similar online publishers.
The next stage was to make further enhancements to the existing Continuum platform and complete a website redevelopment project referred to as eLife 2.0. The architectural approach adopted to underpin eLife 2.0 was a loosely coupled service oriented architecture using microservices that could be scalable independently as required. There was a major focus on improving the reading experience of eLife’s online articles, highlighting content that enriches research and aiming to make the content easier to find. The front-end user interface developed was based on Atomic Design, a methodology for producing consistent and flexible digital design systems.
All of the components were released as open source software and Digirati have been collaborating further on this “Open Access by default” journal publishing system to produce a new version that will be available to the wider scholarly publishing community. This new version aims to address a wider set of use cases than those specific to eLife so that we can meet the needs of the wider community.