The following have been raised as possible negative consequences of preprints.

  • Poor quality and irreproducible data will be posted in preprint form.
  • Scientists will rush out data pre-maturely to claim priority and get credit.
  • Scientists will try to “scoop my work” if I post as a preprint.
  • Reporters and other non-specialist will use the findings without recognizing the interim nature of papers.

Poor quality publications, irreproducibility, and scooping are already issues with our journal system, but there is no current evidence that the situation will worsen with preprints. Most of these (with the exception of human research) have been tested with physics research and have not come to pass with arXiv; nor is there any indication that these problems are surfacing in biology preprints. See the Q&A on scooping by Paul Ginsparg, founder of arXiv.

In practice, these tendencies are mitigated by the powerful driving force of scientists to develop and maintain a good reputation within the scientific community. Reputation is the single most important factor for developing a sustained career in the sciences. Even for scientists who voice the above concerns, when asked if they might be tempted to behave in such manners they immediately respond “no.” In fact, in some instances, poor quality/irreproducible work might be spotted by the community and corrected before reaching final publication in a journal.

Note that preprints are considered public disclosure for the purposes of patenting. See “Can I preprint if I want to patent my work?” below.