Preprint Servers’ Function and Expansion

Posting preprints allows researchers to share scientific manuscripts via an online, public repository before peer review. This form of publication has existed in scientific research fields such as biology and physics for more than 20 years. Preprints address the reproducibility crisis in science by making preliminary data available for review and critique. The goals behind preprint servers include improving the openness, accessibility, and accuracy of science and increasing the speed of dissemination.publish

Preprint servers can increase accessibility and speed through circumventing formal peer review, a process that often slows down publication. But making papers available that have not been peer reviewed carries some obvious risks. To mitigate these risks and ensure readers understand clearly that preprints are not the final peer-reviewed versions of papers, the Public Library of Science has provided specific suggestions, including clear identification of papers as preprints in all accessible forms ; an understanding that authors should refrain from seeking media attention for their preprints; review or screening before manuscripts are publicly shared; and adherence to ethical human research standards.

A new preprint server specifically for clinical research called medRxiv has been announced by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (creator of bioRxiv), BMJ, and Yale University. Preprints of articles covering all aspects of research in the health sciences will be accepted. All articles will undergo a screening process prior to posting, and any article deemed to be a potential danger to public health, to be plagiarized, or to report unethical work will not be posted. When displayed online, each article will be prominently labeled as a preliminary report that has not been peer reviewed and therefore should not be used to guide clinical practice or health-related behavior and should not be reported in news media as established information. medRxiv is scheduled to launch June 25, 2019.

While a variety of copyright and information embargo questions caused some journals to initially decline submission of articles that had been posted to preprint servers, those questions have been addressed and preprinting has grown in popularity. Most journals now accept manuscripts that have been preprinted. The Ochsner Journal will also accept preprinted manuscripts; just be sure to provide the preprint information in the cover letter.

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