Preprinting in biology is gaining steam, but the process is still far from normal: the upload rate to all preprint servers is about 8% that of PubMed. The most obvious way for individual scientists to help turn the tide is, of course, to preprint their own work. But given that it now takes longer to accumulate data for a paper, this opportunity might not come up as often as we’d like.

So, what else can we do?


Ways to promote the productive use of preprints

Many biologists (especially those that have never preprinted before, according to our 2020 survey) are concerned that their preprints won’t be properly acknowledged by the community, perhaps leading to their work getting scooped by competitors.

Concerns about preprints

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To counter this fear, we need to set an expectation that work disclosed in preprints will be cited fairly when relevant to other preprints and journal articles. A commitment to fairly cite relevant preprints was included in a draft statement from our 2016 meeting, and it was widely endorsed.

For more details on how to cite preprints, see our 2020 blog post.

One of the greatest opportunities preprinting presents is the chance to receive more feedback on a paper. For example, Nikolai Slavov describes how thoughtful, constructive feedback helped his paper improve:

Authors are not the only ones who can benefit from comments on preprints.

There are many ways to leave comments on preprints. In addition to the built-in commenting sections and social media, you can also use one of a growing number of preprint commentary and open peer review sites. See our listing of these on ReimagineReview.

bioRxiv offers both keyword/author and subject category alerts via email. Preprints will also show up in your Google scholar alerts along with published papers. Since PubMed began indexing a limited subset of preprints in June of 2020, they will show up in email alerts as well. EuropePMC, an EMBL-EBI-maintained PubMed Central partner that mirrors its content and also indexes preprints from over 15 servers, allows you to set up RSS feeds for saved searches.

Regardless of how you set it up, you’ll get information about new preprints delivered straight to you.

Reviewing preprints may be even more rewarding that reviewing papers: you have the option to share your opinions with the authors, publicly or privately.

It’s a great educational experience for students, too. Prachee Avasthi at the University of Kansas Medical Center draws material for her “Analysis of Scientific Papers” course exclusively from preprint servers. She’s generously shared her syllabus and introductory slide deck, and the students’ reviews can be found on the Winnower.

Learn more about preprint journal clubs

Discovery platforms and resources for starting your own

There are probably researchers in your department who aren’t aware that someone they know has posted a preprint. You can spark conversations around your lab or at conferences by affixing a sticker to your laptop, water bottle, or office door. See examples below for inspiration.

Request some free stickers

You can raise awareness about preprints with every message sent. Here’s an example:



To drive ASAPbio’s mission to raise awareness of preprints and encourage their productive use in the life sciences, we work closely with the ASAPbio Community, a group of researchers and others involved in research communication who interact and exchange information and feedback around the use of preprints.

The ASAPbio Community members:

• Interact via Slack and community calls

• Receive monthly newsletters

• Contribute to projects to promote the use of preprints

Join the ASAPbio Community

Promote discussion and awareness of preprints in your local community

Every time you give a talk (whether at lab meeting, a conference, or in a seminar series), you have an opportunity to start a conversation about preprints.

Of course, this works best if customized to fit your own experience (eg, a screenshot of the preprint you’ve been discussing in the talk) and the audience (whether researchers in biology or another discipline, or a group of other stakeholders).

Here’s a template you can modify to get you started! Select “File/make a copy” or download to get started.


Click to view (Google Slides)