Our first Community Call of 2023 hosted a discussion about the use of preprints by communities in East Asia. While there has been increasing use of preprints in the last few years, trends so far suggest that communities from different geographical regions are at different stages of adoption. An analysis of bioRxiv preprints by Abdill and colleagues highlighted that some countries publish more preprints, relative to their total number of research outputs. For example, China published over 15% of the world’s citable documents the year of the analysis, but contributed only 4% of the preprints. This suggests that there are different levels of awareness and/or perceptions about preprints among communities from that region.
To learn more about perceptions of preprints among researchers in East Asia, we were joined by representatives of two platforms that host preprints: Ritsuko Nakajima, from Jxiv and the Japan Science and Technology Agency, and Min Li from Sciencepaper Online and The Center for Science and Technology Development of the Ministry of Education, People’s Republic of China.
Ritsuko Nakajima provided an overview about the preprint server Jxiv. She noted that the platform fits in the context of Japan’s Open Science Policy, which has outlined a plan to develop infrastructure to support digital transformation in research. In addition, a report by Japan’s National Institute of Science and Technology Policy in 2020 looked at preprints related to COVID-19 and revealed that Japan ranked 13th among the countries that contributed COVID-19 preprints, suggesting there is scope for increasing the contribution of preprints from the country. Nakajima also explained that the ecosystem of journals in Japan includes a majority of journals that only publish in Japanese or that include a mix of content in English and Japanese; this represents how much research is being conducted in Japanese. These trends highlighted a need for a platform to share region-specific research in the language used by many Japanese researchers. Jxiv launched in March 2022 with a scope covering all research fields as well as manuscripts both in English and Japanese. Submissions to Jxiv undergo a screening process involving an evaluation by experts, and if the submission is approved, it is usually published within 48 hours. The server has so far published 123 preprints, and is planning further outreach among researchers to encourage the use of preprints, for example, as a way to fulfill green Open Access recommendations for publications from Japan.
Min Li presented about Sciencepaper Online, a platform launched in 2003 with the aims to broaden the academic communication channels available to researchers in China, and to facilitate the rapid sharing of research results. Sciencepaper Online provides options for the open publication of preprints and inclusion of journal articles, and in 2008 it established the Highlights of Sciencepaper Online journal. Upon submission to Sciencepaper Online, papers undergo in-house checks and if approved they appear as a free paper online. In addition, the authors can also pursue peer review of the manuscript as well as a publication certificate for preprints. Sciencepaper Online now has over 280,000 registered users and hosts more than a million and a half papers, 100,000 among those being preprints.
Following the presentations we engaged in a discussion with the two speakers. Attendees were interested in learning more about whether authors could take the reviews from Sciencepaper Online to submit their paper elsewhere, or whether once reviewed the paper on the platform would be considered published. Min Li explained that the reviews they provide are open and free access and can be recommended to other journals although in their experience the uptake of this option by authors has been very low. On the topic of reviews and reactions on papers, Ritsuko Nakajima noted that Jxiv does not currently have commenting features on papers; the server is considering this option, although they are aware that some researchers have expressed concern about the possibility of having critical comments publicly available on their preprints.
We asked both speakers for their thoughts on how to increase awareness and engagement with preprints among researchers in the region. The speakers highlighted the importance of connections with journals to reassure authors that they can have a preprint and also pursue publication at a journal. Min Li noted that Sciencepaper Online is trying to provide integration with journals, so that authors can submit their preprint from the platform to a number of journals for consideration in the future. Ritsuko Nakajima noted that they are encouraging journals in Japan to update their editorial policies to very clearly note that they accept papers posted as a preprint on Jxiv. They are also pursuing discussion with societies in different disciplines to increase awareness of preprints across their members.
We thank our two speakers for a great overview of their platforms and for sharing their insights into how preprints are used and perceived by researchers in East Asia. We look forward to engaging more with communities in the region to support awareness of preprints. Our Preprint FAQ is available in Chinese, and we welcome additional suggestions for preprint resources we could translate or develop specifically for Asian audiences.