Tennant 2019 MetaArXiv Preprints

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Tennant 2019 MetaArXiv Preprints

Publications in the MiPMap
Tennant J, Bauin S, James S, Kant J (2019) The evolving preprint landscape: introductory report for the Knowledge Exchange working group on preprints. https://doi.org/10.31222/osf.io/796tu.

» MetaArXiv Open Access

Tennant J, Bauin S, James S, Kant J (2019) MetaArXiv Preprints

Abstract: There is presently no clear-cut consensus on the definition of a preprint, with these differences leading to potential confusion between authors and users. .. However, it seems prudent to define the term ‘preprint’ with respect to the state of traditional peer review in scholarly journals, given the importance that the research community places in journal-coupled peer review. Therefore, the following is proposed (pending a systematic evaluation of the usage of the terms):

Preprint: Version of a research paper, typically prior to peer review and publication in a journal.

Postprint: Version of a research paper subsequent to peer review (and acceptance), but before any type-setting or copy-editing by the publisher. Also sometimes called a ‘peer reviewed accepted manuscript’.

Version of Record (VOR): The final published version of a scholarly research paper, after undergoing formatting (and any other additions) by the publisher.

e-Print: version of a research paper posted on a public server, independently of its status regarding peer-review, publication in print, etc. Preprints, postprints and VORs are forms of e-Prints.

It should be noted that the definition of a ‘preprint’ is distinct from what are often termed ‘preprint servers’; these represent typically online platforms or infrastructure, designed to host scholarly documents (primarily preprints), and which can include a combination of peer reviewed and non-peer reviewed content and from a variety of sources and in a range of formats [Tennant JP, Dugan JM, Graziotin D et al (2017) A multi-disciplinary perspective on emergent and future innovations in peer review [version 3; referees: 2 approved]. F1000Research 6:1151. [1].


Bioblast editor: Gnaiger E

Selected quotations

  • Sharing manuscripts using preprint servers has numerous advantages (e.g., [Desjardins-Proulx P, White EP, Adamson JJ, Ram K, Poisot T, Gravel D (2013) The case for open preprints in biology. PLoS Biol 11:e1001563. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001563], including:
  1. Accelerated dissemination of work-in-progress to a wider audience;
  2. Immediate visibility of the research output, especially for early-career researchers or those migrating into new research fields;
  3. Improved peer review by encouraging feedback from the wider research community;
  4. A fair and straightforward way to establish priority for discovery and ideas;
  5. Improving the culture of sharing and communication within research communities;
  6. Two-way free access both for authors to publish and users to read.
  • .. if publishers were to disallow submissions that had been previously shared as preprints, this would eat into an ever-growing proportion of their potential submission pool. As such, developments in preprints have widespread ramifications on how scholarly research is disseminated, and therefore on the wider scholarly communication ecosystem as a whole.
  • May 2013: Launch of Zenodo, developed in the context of the EU-backed OpenAIRE project, as a ‘catch-all’ repository for European Commission funded research which is open to all research outputs from all fields of science regardless of funding source.
  • In October 2017, an entire national community recognized the use of preprints in biology when the French alliances of higher education and research operators for health (Aviesan) and for the environment (AllEnvi) issued a joint statement that “Preprints are a valid form of scientific communication”. The alliances stated that, as long as the hosting servers provide services ensuring compatibility with an extension of the FAIR principles to the domain of publication, the production of preprints should be taken into account in the processes of hiring, evaluation and promotion of researchers as well as in the management of laboratories or in project evaluation”.
  • In February 2018, the Prelights service was launched to help highlight selected biological preprints. Also in February 2018, an overlay journal for the Natural Sciences, biOverlay, was announced (see here for an in preparation database of preprint commentary venues).
  • The overlay journal is built on the concept of deconstructed journals, and represents a type of journal that operates by having peer review as an additional layer on top of collections of preprints.
  • Other similar approaches to that of overlay journals is being developed include PubPub, which allows authors to self-publish their work. PubPub then provides a mechanism for creating overlay journals that can draw from and curate the content hosted on the platform itself.
  • The increasingly widespread, and strategic, adoption of preprints (and preprint servers) has the potential to dramatically impact the diffusion of research. In the future, journals would remain important in managing peer review to validate research articles, but such validity and references would be openly evaluated by a wider pool of readers, and their ability to digest the content.
  • One of the biggest challenges still to overcome is ensuring that researchers are equipped with sufficient knowledge about preprints, including best practices, and some of the perceived benefits and potentially negative consequences associated with them.
  • The perception of risks, irrespective of how grounded in reality they are, will be a major hurdle to overcome, especially for demographics which are at higher risk points in their careers (e.g., early career researchers, minorities, marginalised communities) and different research disciplines. For example, the risk of ‘scooping’ is often used to argue against preprints, whereas in reality the opposite is true as a preprint defines precedence and ‘ownership’ of research; historically, this is actually the main reason why preprints were used in the communities of mathematics and physics [Gentil-Beccot A, Mele S, Brooks TC (2010) Citing and reading behaviours in high-energy physics. Scientometrics 84.2:345-55. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-009-0111-1].
  • A further incentive to accelerating the usage and adoption of preprints would be the wider recognition of preprints as formal research outputs, in a system where journals and peer review still dominate.
  • There are numerous stakeholder groups to consider within the preprint ecosystem, including researchers, librarians, policymakers, repository managers, non-academic audiences, and publishers. Streamlining communications between these groups will be important for any sort of strategic development in the future of preprints.
  • How all of these servers will be integrated into any future preprint infrastructure is still unknown, as well as the potential for further ‘overlay’ services to be built on top of them. This raises additional questions about whether such services should be owned by the research community as part of a wider open scholarly infrastructure [Bilder G, Lin J, Neylon C (2015) Principles for open scholarly infrastructure-v1. Figshare: retrieved 2019-04-18 http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1314859], or whether there is room for commercial services within this environment.


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