Preprints at CIHR
What are preprints?
The term "preprint" refers to scientific manuscripts that have been deposited (typically through http upload) into secure, persistent, and freely available online platforms known as preprint servers.Footnote 1 Manuscript submissions to preprint servers are generally undertaken in advance of, or in tandem with submissions to scientific journals.
CIHR and preprints
As a signatory of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), CIHR recognizes the importance of considering the value and impact of all research outputs in addition to research publications.
CIHR accepts the inclusion of preprints in grant applications as interim research outputs. Reviewers should consider the appropriateness and relevance of the preprint to the overall proposal. CIHR acknowledges that disciplinary communities differ with respect to the acceptance and use of preprints.
While CIHR encourages the posting of article preprints (full manuscript) submitted for publication, posting preprints is not a requirement of the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications. Read more about when a preprint can be considered compliant with the Policy.
What are some the benefits of preprints?
Within the traditional journal publishing model, authors often wait many months from manuscript submission to final publication. While peer review feedback is a critical component of the journal model, it requires a significant amount of time to develop, share and incorporate feedback, which increases the time it takes from submission to publication. Preprints can accelerate the dissemination of information and data while articles are under peer review.
Preprints enable researchers to circulate their ideas, findings, and observations in a timely manner, rapidly sharing scientific results. The time between submission and posting of a manuscript to a preprint server is typically less than one week.
By submitting preprints, authors are able to engage their respective scientific communities, seeking critical feedback from a broader pool of peers than would normally be possible through the traditional peer review process. Preprints also offer a clear way of publicly tracking the development of a scientific draft from manuscript to its final published form.Footnote 2 Preprints can also help authors to establish priority of discovery in advance of the journal publication of their manuscript.
For the majority of authors, preprints offer a way of sharing their work with the public that functions in tandem with journal submissions. As manuscripts submitted to journals are refined through incorporation of feedback from peer review committees, authors are encouraged to reflect those updates and improvements in their respective preprints.
Preprints can also be a useful resource for early-career researchers (ECRs), giving them the ability to make their work immediately available and enter the job market with tangible evidence of their contributions without the sometimes years-long waiting periods that come with traditional journal publication.
While publication in scientific journals continues to be the primary means of sharing ideas, observations and discoveries, the upload of content to preprint servers does not, of necessity, require simultaneous submission to journals. Preprints offer several areas of opportunity for researchers who wish to distribute work that is not typically published in most journals. For example, preprints serve as an important mechanism for the distribution of negative research results, confirmatory results and reproducibility attempts.
The global urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in exponential demands for faster access to scientific information, which preprints offer.Footnote 3 COVID-19 preprints have accelerated access to preliminary research findings, and possibly advanced the understanding and use of preprints by the research community and general public. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, CIHR signed the GLOPID-R joint statement on sharing data and findings related to COVID-19, which included a commitment to support making research findings “available via preprint servers before journal publication, or via platforms that make papers openly accessible before peer review…”
What are some of the challenges and risk associated with preprints?
While many journals accept submissions of manuscripts that have been deposited in preprint servers, some journals have policies against accepting manuscripts that have preprint duplicates.
In research assessment, there could be a risk of extrapolating journal-based metrics to preprints where the number of preprints presents a biased metric of research productivity.
One of the principal concerns about preprints is that they have had no or little/superficial peer review and therefore run the risk of publicly disseminating invalid scientific findings.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a number of preprint and article retractions that have resulted in negative impacts such as misinformation and public mistrust in science. In some instances, journals have reflected on and revised their peer review and editorial practices related to articles and preprints to minimize the potential for future retractions. In addition to requiring a statistical peer review, some journals now require editors to obtain a review from a data science expert for articles and preprints with large, public datasets. Initiatives such as PREreview/Outbreak Science's Rapid PREreview (a community for reviews of outbreak-related preprints) is one example of how the scholarly communication system has adapted to build in checks for research integrity within the preprint process.
How do different disciplines consider preprints?
The past decade has seen a marked rise in the number of preprint servers being established by and for different communities to rapidly disseminate pre-refereed research outputs. For example, disciplinary preprint servers such as ARXiv (physics, mathematics, computer science and related subjects), bioRxiv (life sciences), SocArXiv, engrXiv, PsyArXiv, RePEc (economics) and platforms such as ESSOAr (American Geophysical Union); national servers including ChinaXiv, IndiaRxiv and INA-Rxiv (Indonesia); and many journal publishers, primarily in biomedical sciences, have also added preprint dissemination to their workflows and now deposit submissions from authors in bioRxiv on behalf of authors (where the author agrees).
Many disciplines and career stages are favourable towards preprints, though there are differences in the extent of this favourability.Footnote 4 Currently, different levels of adoption of preprints exist across different fields. There will continue to be disciplinary differences in communication practices, therefore the sharing and use of preprints may not be adopted universally across all disciplines.
How can I learn more about preprints?
For further reading on preprints, see the Centre for Journalology's Preprints page, ASAPbio Preprint resource center, and Ten simple rules to consider regarding preprint submission.Footnote 5
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