Paper preprints: making them work for you

Pilar Cacheiro & Altea Lorenzo

After reading the news that PLOSGenetics is to actively solicit manuscripts from pre-print servers (PPS; read here) as a way to “improve the efficiency and accessibility of science communication”,  we decided to write a quick overview on some of the most popular repositories.

Arxiv  is probably the most widely known PPS as it has been available since 1991 and it mainly covers publications from the fields of mathematics, physics and computer science. Although a later development (2013), popularity of the PPS for biology  bioRxiv is rapidly increasing, particularly in the fields of genomics and bioinformatics (see post here). SocARxiv for the social sciences is even more recent (July 2016), so we still have to wait to see how it is received by the community.

Some other repositories extend this feature to incorporate additional information. On Figshare, for instance, researchers can freely share their research outputs, including figures, data sets, images, and videos. GitHub, although mainly focused on source-code, also offers similar utilities (read previous posts here and here)

The main advantage of these PPS is the speed at which you make your  work available to the scientific world therefore maximising the impact and outreach. Additionally, they allow for suggestions and comments from peers which make the process a more interactive one.

At a time when research consortiums are starting to require submission of manuscripts to online PPS ahead of peer review ( 4D Nucleome being a prominent recent example as reported on Nature news), and even governmental agencies (e.g., National Institutes of Health in US; read here) are enquiring about the possibility of allowing preprints to be cited in grant applications and reports, pre-prints are bound to play a big role in scientific research dissemination.

Related tools such as OpenCitations that provides information on downloads or citations of these pre-prints and Wikidata that serves as open data storage, are other examples of resources framed within the Creative Commons Public Domain philosophy of free open tools, and that will surely have a positive impact on efforts towards guaranteeing reproducibility and replicability of scientific research (read about a recent paper reproducibility hack event here).

We are keen to give it a try, are you?

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