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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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Increasing your research visibility -through a personal website with GitHub-

Letting the world know about your work is important. This is true for any field of research, but for those of us working in any kind of computing-related field, it becomes even more relevant.

Professional networks, distribution lists, blogs and forums are an excellent way to keep up to date with research in your field (you can check a previous post on this topic here). Even social networks can be a great way to do so, depending on how you decide to use them. For instance, you can find quite a number of PostDoc positions posted on twitter.

There is another important aspect to consider as well. By being an active part of the community, not only do you gain visibility, but you also get the chance to contribute in return… How many issues have you solved through StackOverflow, Biostars, R-bloggers posts and so on? How many articles were you able to get through ResearchGate?

Back to the matter at hand, I have just recently found out about how to create a personal website with GitHub . If, like me, you do not know much about HTML programming, you might want to use the automatic page generator. I can tell you: if you have already figured out the content you want on it, and providing you already have a GitHub account, it will take you less than 5 minutes, (see a previous post on how to create an account here). Starting from a simple static web -simple is beautiful-, it can evolve into more sophisticated sites.