What is a preprint?

A preprint is a scientific manuscript that is uploaded by the authors to a public server. The preprint contains data and methods, but has not yet been accepted by a journal. While some servers perform brief quality-control inspections (for more details on the practices of individual servers, see asapbio.org/preprint-servers), the author’s manuscript is typically posted…

Are preprints compatible with journals?

Yes. While both preprints and journal articles enable researchers to disseminate their findings to the research community, they are complementary in that preprints represent an opportunity to disseminate at an early stage.  In most cases, the same work posted as preprint also is submitted for peer review at a journal. Thus, preprints (rapid, but not…

Can a preprint help my journal submission?

Many preprint servers are integrated with one or more journals, making it possible to submit to both a server and a journal at once. View these integrations in the Preprint Server Directory. Preprint servers can also serve as a “marketplace” for journal editors to invite submissions to their journals. PLOS Genetics has “preprint editors,” described…

Why do people use preprints? What is their value?

Because journal publication can be slow and the peer review process unpredictable, preprints provide a mechanism for rapidly communicating research with the scientific community. This is good for science overall, since disseminating new knowledge or techniques leads to new discoveries. However, there are tangible benefits to the scientist who uses preprints, a subset of which…

Do preprints work with double blind review?

A review process is considered “double blind” if neither authors nor reviewers are aware of one another’s identities. Though it is relatively rare in the life sciences, it is more prevalent in social science and the humanities. Double blind review is one approach to mitigating biases in review, which can range from a bias against…

Do funders and job search committees give credit for preprints?

We are tracking the policies of both funders (including NIH, HHMI, Wellcome, MRC, HFSP, CZI, CIHR, Simons, EMBO, Helmsley, Cancer Research UK, & BBSRC) and universities that have considered preprints in assessment processes (including UC Davis, NYU, UCSC, UT Austin, and the Rockefeller University). For example, On March 24, 2017, the US NIH released NOT-OD-17-050,…

Why publish a paper if the work is already a preprint?

In the present day reward system, journal publications play a major role in funding and promotions. For such reasons, the vast majority of research-paper preprints in physics (ie, not meeting proceedings, reviews, etc) are also submitted to journals (see slide 13 in Paul Ginsparg’s talk), even though work is one’s field is generally always seen…

Can preprint commentary harm my paper?

Some preprint servers discourage anonymous commentary. This mitigates potentially harmful commentary, since the individual is disclosed and will have to stand by their remarks. Indeed, in some cases, commentary might help a submitted paper (see “Can a preprint help my journal submission?”). However, the usefulness and perhaps unintended consequences of commentary on preprint servers should…

What are the preprint servers for biology?

There are many options. bioRxiv has been steadily growing in preprints posted per month since 2014, and the more recently-launched Research Square (populated by the In Review service used by Springer Nature) has been rapidly expanding. medRixv is a sister to bioRxiv hosting clinically-relevant preprints. Each server varies in its disciplinary scope, screening and withdrawal policies,…

Without peer review, how do I know if a preprint is flawed?

You do not and you should be aware that it could be flawed. However, you should apply a similar wariness to journal publications since peer-review often misses important flaws in papers. Preprint commentary by experts in the field, whether in the preprint server’s comment section, on a third-party review site, or on social media, can…

Do preprints establish priority?

In the physics community, preprints posted on arXiv clearly establish priority of discovery since they have a time stamp, are publicly available and are widely cited (for more on arXiv, see Paul Ginsparg’s comments on scooping). An article on the topic of priority in the life sciences community by Ron Vale and Tony Hyman has…

How should I cite a preprint in a journal publication?

Most journals allow citation of preprints in the reference list of the article in question, similar to journal articles. The NIH has recommended a preprint citation format that makes clear the status of the work as a preprint and includes its DOI. While ArXiv does not use DOIs, they have their own persistent identification system.

Are preprints open access?

While all preprint servers relevant to life sciences currently allow readers to access the text for free, many preprints do not conform to the original definition of open access, which allows redistribution and reuse. In order to enable these functions, authors can choose to apply a Creative Commons license. For more information, see our Preprint…

What if incorrect information gets disseminated to the broader public?

There are legitimate concerns that preprint servers may become venues for posting and providing some validation for “pseudoscience,” low-quality research results, or even papers that pose serious ethical or national security concerns. Many preprint servers screen papers before posting. arXiv has faced these issues with climate science and has largely managed to block or mitigate…

Can I preprint if I want to patent my work?

Preprints, like journal articles, are considered public disclosures, which can affect a patent application. Therefore, if you intend to file an application to patent work disclosed in your paper, discuss the situation with your technology transfer office before preprinting.