Public preprint servers allow authors to make manuscripts publicly available before, or in parallel to, submitting them to journals for traditional peer review. The rationale for preprint servers is fundamentally simple: to make the results of research available to the scientific community as soon as possible, instead of waiting until the peer-review process is fully completed. Sharing manuscripts using preprint servers has numerous advantages, including: 1) rapid dissemination of work-in-progress to a wider audience; 2) immediate visibility of the research output for early-career scientists; 3) improved peer review by encouraging feedback from the entire research community; and 4) a fair and straightforward way to establish precedence.
Open preprint servers offer a great opportunity for open science, especially if the community embraces the idea of discussing preprints. Initiatives like Haldane’s Sieve (http://haldanessieve.org/), a new blog discussing arXiv papers in population genetics, can help make arXiv attractive for scientists looking to promote their work . These initiatives are important to fully exploit the potential of open preprint servers. Posting preprints online increases the community of available informal peer reviewers, and uses the internet for its original community-building purposes.
Preprints began to gain popularity 20 years ago with the advent of arXiv, an open preprint server widely used in physics and mathematics . Preprints are also integral to the culture of other scientific fields. Paul Krugman noted that, in economics, the “traditional model of submit, get refereed, publish, and then people will read your work broke down a long time ago. In fact, it had more or less fallen apart by the early 80 s” . In addition to a section on arXiv, economists have the RePEc (Research Papers in Economics) initiative, which aims to create an archive of working papers, manuscripts, and book chapters.
Despite the success of this approach in other fields, most manuscripts in biology are not posted to preprint servers and are therefore not seen by more than a handful of other scientists prior to publication. In this article, we highlight the advantages of open preprint servers for both scientists and publishers, discuss the preprint policies of major publishers in biology, and describe the main options to publish preprints (Box 1, Table 1)” (read more/open access).
(Open access source: PLoS Biology 11(5): e1001563)
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