Preprints: The changing scholarly communication landscape

Guest post by Robin Champieux, OHSU’s research engagement and open science librarian.

Have you shared your first preprint? For the uninitiated, a preprint is a complete scientific manuscript shared on an open access server before peer review, and they are gaining traction at OHSU.

Preprints allow researchers to demonstrate progress ahead of a journal publication and get early feedback on their work. OHSU authors have published nearly 60 preprints so far in 2018 on platforms such as bioRxiv, Nature Proceedings, PeerJ Preprints. They are also writing about their experiences and leading initiatives that leverage preprints to address broader issues in peer review.

We’re not alone. As described in a recent National Academies of Sciences report, “preprints are gaining momentum among the scientific community.” Funders, including the NIH, are taking concrete steps to support preprints, more journals are accepting manuscripts previously posted as preprints, and the number of published preprints is rising. Figure above:

The upside of preprints

Supporters offer a spectrum of scientific and personal benefits. Researchers can communicate their ideas sooner 1. Preprints increase access to the scientific literature and facilitate critiques from and collaborations with a broader audience of knowledgeable readers 2,3. Finally, preprints document transitional expressions of scientific findings and an important event in the scholarly communication process (especially when paired with published commentary)4. There are critics, but preprints sit at the center of an exciting dialogue about where scientific communication is headed and what it should achieve.5,6

Get ready for change

Where does this leave you? Scholarly communication is changing. The growing list of options, platforms, and expectations can be confusing. Moreover, it can seem like you have to choose between your personal success or experimenting with new publishing innovations (and ideals). This gap, however, was never as wide as it seemed and it’s narrowing. So, how can you address your uncertainty about preprints and develop a personal publication strategy?

  1. Do your research and talk to your peers. ASAPbio’s preprint info center is a great starting place for learning more about preprints, and on PrePubMed you can search for OHSU-authored papers shared on preprint servers.
  2. Talk to TTBDOHSU Technology Transfer and Business Development can guide you through the considerations and policies related to intellectual property and disclosing your idea through publication.
  3. Ask a Librarian. OHSU Librarians can help you identify high quality and impactful journals that accept manuscripts that were shared as preprints, choose a preprint server and even develop a broader publication and impact tracking strategy.
  4. Attend a live preprint journal club! PLoS and PREreview are teaming up to host three live-streamed preprint journal club discussions. Join PREreview co-founder and OHSU neuroscience doctoral candidate, Daniela Saderi and OHSU researchers Shannon McWeeney, Ph.D., and Ted Laderas, Ph.D., for the bioinformatics session on October 23 at 9 a.m. Registration for all sessions is free and open to everyone.

—Robin Champieux

Robin Champieux, OHSU Research Engagement and Open Science LibrarianThe changing scholarly communication landscape
Robin Champieux, OHSU’s research engagement and open science librarian, will be writing a monthly blog post about news and developments related to publishing, data sharing, and research impact.

Are there issues you’d like her to address, or people you want to hear from? Please reach out with questions and suggestions.