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Preprints

The purpose of this guide is to introduce you to preprints and how to use preprints.

What are preprints?

A preprint is a full draft research paper that is shared publicly before it has been peer reviewed. Most preprints are given a digital object identifier (DOI) so they can be cited in other research papers.

Source: AJE Scholar. (2020). What are Preprints, and How Do They Benefit Authors? (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.aje.com/arc/benefits-of-preprints-for-researchers/

Why are preprints useful?

Publishing an article as a preprint

  • Allows for rapid communication of the information to be shared with the academic community.
  • The author(s) have the opportunity to receive comments from the wider community that can help improve a manuscript prior to submitting it to a journal for publication.
  • Authors can use preprints as evidence of productivity when applying for jobs or grant proposals.
  • Authors can establish intellectual claim of methods, results, and ideas within the paper.
  • Preprints can increase citations to the final peer reviewed article while the research goes through the peer review process.
  • Preprints can be beneficial to early career researchers by helping them find find research collaborators, and helping them improve their professional network that can lead to further opportunities to these researchers.

Things to keep in mind with preprints

  • Preprints have not been peer reviewed: Preprints are full draft manuscript that are in preparation of being peer-reviewed, however, they have not yet been formally reviewed. Preprint servers usually have a posting criteria that they use to ensure that the content is applicable however, it does not include an extensive check for reliability and accuracy of information in the article.
  • Some journals do not accept articles published as preprints: An increasing number of publishers and journals accept the articles that have been released as a preprint, some journals might not accept them. Ensure to check the policies about preprints in journals that you are planning to submit your research before submitting a preprint.

Common questions about preprints

Does posting in a preprint lower the quality of an article when comparing to an article published in a journal?

Peer review process adds value to the works as it checks for quality, points out errors and areas for improvement. Preprints include information that is written by experts that allows scientific colleagues to read and judge the work before it is published. Further, most of preprints lead to a publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Will publishing work as a preprint lead to my research getting scooped?

It is unlikely that your research will be scooped due to preprinting. This is because there is greater protection in establishing credit work as the work is submitted both to a preprint server and to a journal. To read more on the topic of scooping please read ASAPbio comprehensive list of responses related to this topic.

Should I inform the journal where I want to submit my article that I have posted the article as a preprint?

You should let a journal know that you have posted a preprint. This will help the preprint repositories link your preprint to the final published article. It is also good practice because journals use plagiarism detection software that will pick up preprints as a match, it will be easier for journals to review those if they are aware that you have published a preprint.

Can a preprint be removed?

The preprint cannot be removed once it is publicly available as it becomes a permanent part of the scientific record. It is possible to revise the preprint with the most recent version prior to publication in a journal. Once the final article is published the two versions are linked.

Do some journals reject submissions if they have been posted as a preprint?

Many journals state that they accept articles posted as a preprint. However, there are some that have restrictions or reject any new submission that has been posted as a preprint. For instance, New England Journal of Medicine (N Engl J Med) will reject submissions that have been posted as a preprint. Other journals have restrictions in relation to preprints, for instance, the Journal of Clinical Oncology and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). For more information go to the list of academic journals by preprint policy.  Journals of mathematics and physics are excluded from this list because they commonly accept manuscripts that have been posted on preprint servers.

Can I submit my article to a journal directly from a preprint server?

Direct submissions are available from preprint servers to an increasing number of journals. Check  a particular journal's policy page to see if there is a list of journal titles that the preprint server is participating with. This can save authors time in submitting manuscripts to journals and peer-review services by transferring their files and metadata directly from the preprint server. Authors do not have to spend time loading files and entering author information on the journal website.

Can my preprint be linked to the journal when it is published?

Depending on the preprint server, the link will be added to the published version within weeks of journal publication. It is likely that the author will receive an email from a preprint server requesting confirmation of the link. Sometimes, a match is not made because the title or authors have changed or due to other reasons. You can also contact the preprint server to notify them of publication and to provide the link.

Can I cite a preprint?

Preprints are citable, further most preprints are given a permanent DOI that should be used with adding to the reference list. However, there is no overarching standards across journals and differences exit across disciplines whether preprints can be included in the reference section. If you are not sure, view the individual journal submission guidelines for details on how to format preprints as references. You can find more information about citing a preprint on ASAPbio.

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