ASAPbio receives many inquiries regarding preprints and “scooping.” As jobs and grants become very competitive, there is increasing worry among biologists about scooping, ie that their ideas/results will be published by others and that they will not receive proper attribution.
Here we try to break down the issue of scooping into specific scenarios and points of view. However, it is worthwhile prefacing these remarks that scooping, while it can occur, is less prevalent than one might think. Most work is unique or unique enough that concerns of scooping do not compromise publication. Furthermore, even though reagents have become more available and assays easier to perform, most work is not that easy to replicate in a few weeks by an unscrupulous scientist.
The key question is whether preprints will have unintentional consequences of engendering bad behavior and making biologists more vulnerable to scooping compared to a journal-only publication. Our argument is that this is unlikely, and indeed there is likely to be greater protection and overall fairness in establishing credit for work by submitting both to a preprint server (for fair and timely disclosure) and to a journal (for validation by peer review), as discussed below.