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 are described below. Many of these points are also articulated in a commentary in Science Magazine (May 20, 2016).
- Speeding up discovery of interim work when timely information is particularly valuable (such as the COVID-19 pandemic – see ASAPbio resource on COVID-19 and preprints)
- Evidence of productivity and accomplishment. A preprint provides funding agencies and promotion and hiring committees with public evidence of your most recent accomplishments, which is pertinent for their decision-making.
- Increasing visibility and attention. Posting a preprint increases social media attention and citations (Serghiou 2018, Fraser 2019, Fu 2019). It also promotes invitation to meetings since organizers are often looking for recent work not published in journals.
- Feedback on your work. You can send the link of your public preprint to fellow scientists and ask for comments. Sometimes scientists might contact you through email or through commentary on the server. These type of interactions and feedback can help you to improve your final journal publication beyond the two or three anonymous scientists who review your paper for a journal.
- Establishing priority of discoveries and ideas. Preprints are the main mechanism for disseminating work and establishing priority in the physics community, and we anticipate this developing in biology (see draft document from the recent ASAPbio meeting and an eLife article by Vale and Hyman).
- Potential for developing new collaborations earlier. Once your technique or results are in the public domain, new interactions can occur which can advance your work.
- Free access to your work. Your research is made available to all scientists without requirement of subscription or journal-imposed paywalls.