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Preprints: What is a Preprint?

A guide to all things preprint related.

What is a Preprint?

A preprint is version of a research manuscript that is disseminated prior to the peer review process. Preprints are frequently posted in an electronic format and often made available to the public on a preprint server such as bioRxiv or medRxiv. Most preprints are assigned a digital object identifier (DOI) so that it is possible to cite them in other research papers. Preprints are often associated with a push towards Open Access (OA) as well as efforts to expedite the dissemination of scientific content.  While preprints have been around for several decades, the Covid-19 global pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in the number of publications archived in preprint servers. A 2020 Nature article entitled "Will the pandemic permanently alter scientific publishing" explores the potential impacts of preprints on the scholarly publications life cycle. 

Pros of archiving preprints include:

  • fast dissemination/discussion of research results
  • feedback from the research community prior to submission to a scientific journal
  • earlier documentation of the originality of research based on DOI
  • exposure of research to a potentially larger group
  • availability of articles that might otherwise not be published
  • availability to researchers without library access

Cons of archiving preprints include: 

  • dissemination of inaccurate information
  • misuse of preprints by media and news outlets
  • contribution to "information overload"
  • refusal of some publishers to publish items that have been archived as preprints

Preprints from ASAPBio

Preprints and Peer Review in a Pandemic: Video from JHU

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