Category Archives: News

The Benefits of a “Central Service” for Biology Preprints

Preprints are complete and public manuscripts with associated data shared before undergoing peer review. Physicists, mathematicians, and computer scientists post 100,000 preprints per year to arXiv, a scientist-governed preprint server that has been in operation for over a quarter of a century. Preprints in the life sciences are in a more embryonic stage, with less than 10,000 posted manuscripts per year. However, several meetings hosted by ASAPbio have ended with the conclusion that preprints, in conjunction with journals, hold great potential for enhancing scholarly communication in biology.

Recently, eleven major international funding agencies (Wellcome Trust, National Institutes of Health, Medical Research Council (UK), Helmsley Trust, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), European Research Council, Simons Foundation, Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Department of Biotechnology (Government of India), Laura and John Arnold Foundation) have released a statement calling for further technology development and the creation of a central resource for preprints, which is being provisionally called the Central Service (CS). The CS will be a database that aggregates preprints from multiple sources, making them easier to read by humans and machines. These features will enable scientists to find new knowledge that can accelerate their research. The CS will be overseen by a scientist-led governing body, which will ensure its mission in serving the scientific community and the public good.

ASAPbio (a scientist-driven organization to promote the productive use of preprints in biology) has released a Request for Applications (RFA) for the development of this service, which is open to all. After independent reviewers select the preferred applicants(s), and pending commitment of funders, the CS is expected to launch in 2018. Here we discuss why the Central Service is needed and its potential for advancing knowledge dissemination in the life sciences. Continue reading


ASAPbio is releasing a Request for Applications for the development of a Central Service (provisional name) for preprints in the life sciences issued by ASAPbio. This Request is open to all prospective bidders, and we encourage responses from interested parties able to deliver the services described below. For a concise description of the goals of this project, please see our blog post entitled The Benefits of a “Central Service” for Biology Preprints. Proposals are due on April 30, 2017.



Principles for establishing a Central Service for Preprints: a statement from a consortium of funders

At the ASAPbio Funders’ Workshop, representatives from a number of funding agencies asked ASAPbio to “develop a proposal describing the governance, infrastructure and standards desired for a preprint service that represents the views of the broadest number of stakeholders.” Following iterative discussions about the technical and organizational aspects of such a project, ASAPbio is now positioned to issue an RFA for the development of a “Central Service” for preprints. To guide this effort, a group of funders have independently formulated the following principles that will shape the Central Service.

The funders are interested in getting additional funding bodies and research performing organizations to endorse these Principles. If you represent such an agency and are interested in signing on to these principles (or would like to discuss this matter), please contact Robert Kiley, Development Lead, Open Research at the Wellcome Trust (

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Societies clarify positions on preprints in grants

Following increased interest in may scientific societies’ positions on the use of preprints in NIH grant applications, several societies have released statements providing their perspectives.


The ASCB leadership, after careful consideration, believes preprints should be able to be included in grant applications and referenced in NIH progress reports, with the proper references so they are not confused with peer reviewed published papers. In short, the pace of science is too fast and the process of publication too slow to ignore preprints.

American Society for Microbiology (ASM)

ASM also supports the proposal that NIH allow preprints to be included in grant applications and progress reports, provided they are listed separately from peer-reviewed journal publications, given that they serve different purposes and hold different status.

Genetics Society of America (GSA)

American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB)

While the ASBMB doesn’t oppose preprints being included in grant applications, some members do have concerns about how preprints will be used and whether they will increase the burden on grant reviewers.

ASAPbio response to FASEB’s statement on the NIH RFI on preprints

1/19/2017 update: We will close the signature drive at 9pm EST on Sunday, 1/22/2017.


The NIH released a RFI (request for information) on “including preprints and interim research products in the NIH applications and reports.”  ASAPbio, and many individual scientists, responded with arguments in favor of providing scientists with the option, not requirement, of citing preprints in NIH applications/reports as public evidence of their most recent work and productivity. FASEB, a scientific society claiming to be the voice of 125,000 scientists, issued a strong negative response to allowing preprints to be used in NIH grant review.  We, junior and senior scientists of the ASAPbio Board of Directors feel that there are many deeply problematic issues with FASEB’s arguments including 1) an unfamiliarity with preprints and even an articulation of incorrect information, 2) a lack of transparency of how they derived their decision, and 3) a view that there is “no need to read” original scientific papers, which we feel is not the type of culture that the funding agencies should foster in order to promote excellence in grant review. Because FASEB claims to speak for many societies and many scientists, their letter (signed only by the FASEB President) could be given disproportionate weight by the NIH (for a past historical example, see this article).  ASAPbio therefore has written this detailed response to FASEB (see below). We are also collecting signatures of scientists who support the option to cite preprints in NIH grant applications and reports here until 9pm EST on 1/22/2017.

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Update on development of a Central Service Request for Applications (RFA)

At the ASAPbio Funders’ Workshop in May of 2016, representatives of funding agencies requested that ASAPbio “develop a proposal describing the governance, infrastructure and standards desired for a preprint service that represents the views of the broadest number of stakeholders.” Toward this end, we proposed a model for a “Central Service” (CS) that would aggregate content from multiple preprint servers, facilitating human and machine access to preprints via a search tool and an API.

Three separate processes are now ongoing to define this service:

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ASAPbio’s response to the NIH RFI on preprints

Note: the RFI is now closed.

The NIH has recently released a request for information (RFI) on the use of preprints and other interim research products. We encourage all interested parties to respond to the RFI using the submission website by the deadline of December 9th 2016 (extended from November 29th).

ASAPbio’s draft response is posted below. Even if you completely agree with our draft, we encourage you to submit your own responses as well. A large number of responses will be critical in conveying a strong message of community interest in preprints and other interim research products to the NIH. Responses from individual scientists at all career stages are encouraged. You do not have to respond to all questions, and the responses can be short. If you would like to share comments or your own response to the RFI, please use the comment section below the post.
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Four foundations announce support for ASAPbio

This announcement was originally posted on the Simons Foundation website.

On June 20, four foundations announced their support for ASAPbio (Accelerating Science and Publication in Biology), a scientist-driven effort with a mission to promote the use of preprints in the life sciences. The combined total provisional funding — from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the Simons Foundation — is $400,000 for work to be conducted over the next 18 months.

The hope is that use of preprints will catalyze scientific discovery, facilitate career advancement and improve the culture of communication within the biology community. Continue reading

Vale & Hyman publish eLife article on preprints & priority

Tony Hyman and ASAPbio founder Ron Vale have just published a Point of View in eLife building on their earlier blog post.

ABSTRACT: The job of a scientist is to make a discovery and then communicate this new knowledge to others. For a scientist to be successful, he or she needs to be able to claim credit or priority for discoveries throughout their career. However, despite being fundamental to the reward system of science, the principles for establishing the “priority of discovery” are rarely discussed. Here we break down priority into two steps: disclosure, in which the discovery is released to the world-wide community; and validation, in which other scientists assess the accuracy, quality and importance of the work. Currently, in biology, disclosure and an initial validation are combined in a journal publication. Here, we discuss the advantages of separating these steps into disclosure via a preprint, and validation via a combination of peer review at a journal and additional evaluation by the wider scientific community.