Accelerating scholarly communication: The transformative role of preprints | Zenodo

Abstract:  The preprints landscape is evolving rapidly, and the full impact of sharing articles in pre-review form remains to be seen. After publishing our initial report ‘The evolving preprint landscape’ in 2018 and a slide deck ‘Practices, drivers and impediments in the use of preprints’ in spring 2019, we are now able to share our final report ‘Accelerating scholarly communication – The transformative role of preprints’.

Preprints (tentatively defined as versions of research papers typically prior to peer review and publication in a journal) have become more widespread in a number of disciplines over the last few years, partly to counter the slow pace of the traditional publishing process and partly to allow authors to reach a broader audience. Knowledge Exchange, in collaboration with Research Consulting, investigated this phenomenon in order to explore the current place of preprints in the scholarly communication process.

In this context, we interviewed 38 stakeholders, including researchers, research performing organisations, research funding organisations and preprint service providers, and reviewed over 60 literature sources.

Our key results include the benefits and challenges for researchers in using preprints as well as the establishment of trust without peer review including the role of twitter. Moreover, we reflect on the responsibilities for preprint posting in the future and the role of scholarly communities and commercial publishers.

In addition to our latest report you can find our detailed analysis in the preprint ‘Preprints and Scholarly Communication: Adoption, Practices, Drivers and Barriers’ by Research Consulting on F1000. 

The Second Wave of Preprint Servers: How Can Publishers Keep Afloat? – The Scholarly Kitchen

“Preprint servers have been growing explosively over the last ten years: over 60 platforms are currently available worldwide, and the sharing of research outputs prior to formal peer-review and publication is increasing in popularity. Preprint servers have a long history in fields such as high energy physics, where extensive collaboration and co-authorship are the norm, and economics, with its lengthy review and publication process. Services like arXiv and RePEC emerged in the 1990s as a means of enabling early-sharing of research results in these disciplines, and have co-existed with traditional journals for decades….

Over the last 12 months we’ve been working on a project commissioned by Knowledge Exchange to explore the role of preprints in the scholarly communication process, speaking with researchers, research performing organizations, research funding organizations, and preprint service providers. Our interviews with authors indicate that early and fast dissemination is the primary motive behind preprint posting. In addition, the increased scope for feedback seems to be highly valued, with much of this interaction taking place via Twitter and email, rather than via direct comments on preprint servers. Early career researchers see particular advantages: the inclusion of preprints on CVs or funding applications enables them to demonstrate credibility in a field much sooner than would otherwise be the case….

In fields with a longstanding preprint culture, such as economics, scholarly practice has evolved to the point where ‘the working paper [on RePEc] is downloaded many times more than the article’. Similar patterns have been observed in mathematics, where arXiv-deposited articles appear to receive a citation advantage but see a reduction in downloads, and there are early indications of citation and altmetric advantages to biological science papers deposited in bioRxiv….

Journals with strong brands, or in fields that have yet to show much interest in preprints, may therefore find that a wait-and-see strategy serves them best. It remains unclear how many of the new crop of preprint servers will be able to develop a sustainable business model, and the recent decision by PeerJ to stop accepting new preprints lends credence to a cautious approach. Having established the first dedicated services for preprints in biology and life science, PeerJ’s management team have now opted to focus solely on peer-reviewed journals – effectively conceding the territory to not-for-profit preprint servers such as BioRxiv. As PeerJ’s CEO Jason Hoyt observes: ‘What we’re learning is that preprints are not a desired replacement for peer review, but a welcome complement to it.’


The second wave of preprint servers has much to offer the researcher community, but those expecting it to wash away existing scientific journals are liable to be disappointed. In our view, the biggest threat to academic publishers will come, not from preprint servers, but from other publishers that do a better job of addressing authors’ desire for accelerated dissemination, feedback and scholarly credit. This might be achieved through improved internal workflows, acquisition or strategic partnerships. In each case, seeing the integration of preprints into the research workflow as an opportunity, rather than a disruptive threat, is likely to offer publishers the best hope of continuing to identify and attract high-quality content.

bioRxiv: the preprint server for biology | bioRxiv

Abstract:  The traditional publication process delays dissemination of new research, often by months, sometimes by years. Preprint servers decouple dissemination of research papers from their evaluation and certification by journals, allowing researchers to share work immediately, receive feedback from a much larger audience, and provide evidence of productivity long before formal publication. Launched in 2013 as a non-profit community service, the bioRxiv server has brought preprint practice to the life sciences and recently posted its 64,000th manuscript. The server now receives more than four million views per month and hosts papers spanning all areas of biology. Initially dominated by evolutionary biology, genetics/genomics and computational biology, bioRxiv has been increasingly populated by papers in neuroscience, cell and developmental biology, and many other fields. Changes in journal and funder policies that encourage preprint posting have helped drive adoption, as has the development of bioRxiv technologies that allow authors to transfer papers easily between the server and journals. A bioRxiv user survey found that 42% of authors post their preprints prior to journal submission whereas 37% post concurrently with journal submission. Authors are motivated by a desire to share work early; they value the feedback they receive, and very rarely experience any negative consequences of preprint posting. Rapid dissemination via bioRxiv is also encouraging new initiatives that experiment with the peer review process and the development of novel approaches to literature filtering and assessment.

Community Comments and Peer Review: A preprint commenting pilot at PLOS  | The Official PLOS Blog

“Researchers have told us that posting manuscripts as preprints before—or at the same time as—submitting them to a journal is a great way to gain additional feedback from the community and improve their paper. Could the same community feedback also help improve the quality and speed of the review process at a journal? We’re launching a pilot to find out….”

The Open Access Landscape – an overview

A presentation by Jan Erik Frantsvåg at the 1st Basel Sustainable Publishing  Forum September 9th 2019.

bioRxiv: Trends and analysis of five years of preprints – Anderson – – Learned Publishing – Wiley Online Library

Abstract:  bioRxiv was founded on the premise that publicly posting preprints would allow authors to receive feedback and submit improved papers to journals. This paper analyses a number of trends against this stated purpose, namely, the timing of preprint postings relative to submission to accepting journals; trends in the rate of unpublished preprints over time; trends in the timing of publication of preprints by accepting journals; and trends in the concentration of published, reviewed preprints by publisher. Findings show that a steady c.30% of preprints remain unpublished and that the majority is posted onto bioRxiv close to or after submission – therefore giving no time for feedback to help improve the articles. Four publishers (Elsevier, Nature, PLOS, and Oxford University Press) account for the publication of 47% of bioRxiv preprints. Taken together, it appears that bioRxiv is not accomplishing its stated goals and that authors may be using the platform more to establish priority, as a marketing enhancement of papers, and as functional Green OA, rather than as a community?driven source of prepublication review.


Health and medical research for all: The challenge remains open

“Five years ago, we commented that “open access to medical research has become more complicated than just choosing an idealistic new journal over regressive old ones”, referring to the labyrinth of hybrid subscription and article processing charge publishing models that exists, often disingenuously crafted so as to protect the business models of for-profit publishers. This unhelpful situation prevails today and prevents access in a fashion that could honestly be described as “open”, for many readers, to a large proportion of newly published research papers. We hope that the ongoing initiative Plan S—supported by the research funder group cOAlition S—will be able to resolve this issue by 2021….”

Open and Shut?: The OA Interviews: K. VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India

“It is, however, clearly problematic that cOAlition S has remained an essentially European initiative. For this reason when, in February, the Indian Government’s Principal Scientific Adviser, Professor VijayRaghavan posted a series of tweets saying that India was joining cOAlition S the news was greeted with great excitement by cOAlition S members, as well as by Plan S supporters like the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas.


The news was greeted with less enthusiasm back home in India, with concerns raised about the cost implications, the likely impact on small journals and publishers, and the way in which it would allow commercial publishers to continue to profit excessively from the research community – see, for instance, here, here and here.


Following Prof. VijayRaghavan’s tweets, however, radio silence set in, with no confirmation that India had formally joined, or any updates on the status of its plans. For this reason many ears pricked up last Friday when, during a lecture he gave at IISc Bangalore to mark Open Access Week, Prof. VijayRaghavan commented, “We are not committed to whatever Plan S does or does not do.” This sufficiently piqued the interest of Vasudevan Mukunth that he sought out Prof. VijayRaghavan and asked for clarification, which led to an interview in The Wire where it was confirmed that India no longer plans to join cOAlition S.


As I had been trying to interview Prof. VijayRaghavan for some months, I too was piqued by his comments and so took to Twitter to again invite him to answer the questions I had sent him in June. He agreed and below are his answers to an updated list of questions I emailed over to him….”

PeerJ Preprints Succumbs

“The number and range of preprint initiatives has been expanding for a few years now, with bioRxiv, medRxiv, chemRxiv, and socRxiv among a much longer list, some quite obscure.

The recent announcement that PeerJ Preprints won’t be posting any more preprints after the end of this month may represent the beginning of “preprint deflation,” the first obvious retreat in the preprint realm, a world that has been haunted by questions of financial viability since Day 1.

Even long-standing preprint servers like arXiv have wrestled with the expense and work involved in posting free drafts of papers. The systems, people, and bandwidth needed to support technology platforms longterm aren’t cheap. Preprint platforms are no exception. This year, arXiv moved from one part of Cornell to another, in what looked like an attempt to shuffle overheads out of budgetary approval scrutiny for a time — after all, as I’ve calculated, if you include these, arXiv is hemorrhaging money every year, and nobody seems to want to confront that possibility.

Other indications of preprint deflation are observable in the analyses I’ve done around bioRxiv and socRxiv. The goals of these platforms — to encourage collaboration and pre-publication review — aren’t shared by most users, with authors increasingly using the platforms as marketing adjuncts or to meet Green OA requirements after successful submission to a journal….”