Preprints: The What, The Why, The How.

June 4th, 2018, Rusty Speidel, Matt Spitzer


The use of preprint servers by scholarly communities is definitely on the rise. Many developments in the past year indicate that preprints will be a huge part of the research landscape. Developments with DOIs, changes in funder expectations, and the launch of many new services indicate that preprints will become much more pervasive and reach beyond the communities where they started.

From funding agencies that want to realize impact from their efforts sooner to researchers’ desire to disseminate their research more quickly, the growth of these servers and the number of works being shared, has been substantial. At COS, we already host twenty different organizations' services via the OSF Preprints platform.

So what's a preprint and what is it good for? A preprint is a manuscript submitted to a  dedicated repository (like OSF Preprints, PeerJ, bioRxiv or arXiv) prior to peer review and formal publication. Some of those repositories may also accept other types of research outputs, like working papers and posters or conference proceedings. Getting a preprint out there has a variety of benefits for authors other stakeholders in the research:

  • They increase the visibility of research, and sooner. While traditional papers can languish in the peer review process for months, even years, a preprint is live the minute it is submitted and moderated (if the service moderates). This means your work gets indexed by Google Scholar and Altmetric, and discovered by more relevant readers than ever before.

  • You can get feedback on your work and make improvements prior to journal submission. Many authors have publicly commented about the recommendations for improvements they’ve received on their preprint that strengthened their work and even led to finding new collaborators.

  • Papers with an accompanying preprint get cited 30% more often than papers without. This research from PeerJ sums it up, but that's a big benefit for scholars looking to get more visibility and impact from their efforts.

  • Preprints get a permanent DOI, which makes them part of the freely accessible scientific record forever. This means others can relay on that permanence when citing your work in their research. It also means that your idea, developed by you, has a "stake in the ground" where potential scooping and intellectual theft are concerned.

So, preprints can really help lubricate scientific progress. But there are some things to keep in mind before you post. Usually, you can't post a preprint of an article that's already been submitted to a journal for peer review. Policies among journals vary widely, so it's important to check with the journal you're interested in sending your paper to BEFORE you submit a preprint that might later be published. A good resource for doing this is JISC’s SHERPA/RoMEO database. It's also a good idea to understand the licensing choices available. At OSF Preprints, we recommend the CC-BY license suite, but you can check or for good overviews on how best to license your submissions.

Questions still remain as to the impact preprints will have on traditional scholarly publishing, but it is clear the format is rapidly becoming a mainstream method for disseminating research. As citations of preprints increase, their role as a real contributor to a researcher’s career as well as scientific discourse in general seems assured. 

Recent Blogs

The Content of Open Science

What Second Graders Can Teach Us About Open Science

What's Going on With Reproducibility?

Open Science and the Marketplace of Ideas

3 Things Societies Can Do to Promote Research Integrity

How to Manage and Share Your Open Data

Interview with Prereg Challenge Award Winner Dr. Allison Skinner

Next Steps for Promoting Transparency in Science

Public Goods Infrastructure for Preprints and Innovation in Scholarly Communication

A How-To Guide to Improving the Clarity and Continuity of Your Preregistration

Building a Central Service for Preprints

Three More Reasons to Take the Preregistration Challenge

The Center for Open Science is a Culture Change Technology Company

Preregistration: A Plan, Not a Prison

How can we improve diversity and inclusion in the open science movement?

OSF Fedora Integration, Aussie style!

Replicating a challenging study: it's all about sharing the details.

Some Examples of Publishing the Research That Actually Happened

How Preregistration Helped Improve Our Research: An Interview with Preregistration Challenge Awardees

Are reproducibility and open science starting to matter in tenure and promotion review?

The IRIS Replication Award and Collaboration in the Second Language Research Community

We Should Redefine Statistical Significance

Some Cool New OSF Features

How Open Source Research Tools Can Help Institutions Keep it Simple

OSF Add-ons Help You Maximize Research Data Storage and Accessibility

10 Tips for Making a Great Preregistration

Community-Driven Science: An Interview With EarthArXiv Founders Chris Jackson, Tom Narock and Bruce Caron

A Preregistration Coaching Network

Why are we working so hard to open up science? A personal story.

One Preregistration to Rule Them All?

Using the wiki just got better.

Transparent Definitions and Community Signals: Growth in the Open Science Community

We're Committed to GDPR. Here's How.

Preprints: The What, The Why, The How.

The Prereg Challenge Is Ending. What's Next?

We are Now Registering Preprint DOIs with Crossref

Using OSF in the Lab

Psychology's New Normal

How Open Commenting on Preprints Can Increase Scientific Transparency: An Interview With the Directors of PsyArxiv, SocArxiv, and Marxiv

The Landscape of Open Data Policies

Open Science is a Behavior.

Why pre-registration might be better for your career and well-being

Interview: Randy McCarthy discusses his experiences with publishing his first Registered Report

Towards minimal reporting standards for life scientists

This website relies on cookies to help provide a better user experience. By clicking Accept or continuing to use the site, you agree. For more information, see our Privacy Policy and information on cookie use.