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As researchers, publishing our work is important for two main reasons. It helps us gain recognition for doing important research and make a name for ourselves in our respective fields and it is also necessary to receive grants and to attain our desired positions in academia or industry. However, publishing in impactful journals is not an easy task. The entire publication process can go on for months and can delay the release of information into the public domain and also impact researchers’ career growth.
Fortunately, the publishing arena is rapidly changing. We as researchers need more freedom to choose how our papers are published and also how our ideas are spread. After all, our work should be the focus of any academic publication. We also want our work to be available to other researchers in our field without paying for it. This is where pre-print repositories help us.
Pre-print repositories are archives that contain manuscripts and studies that have not yet been peer-reviewed or published in an academic journal. The manuscripts found in pre-print repositories are screened for plagiarism, but do not undergo an editing process. Researchers can access the manuscripts, use them for their own research, and share comments. Pre-print repositories offer a more open forum for researchers to share and receive feedback on their work and the work of their peers.
A List of Leading Pre-print Servers
Pre-print repositories differ from academic journals in two main ways. First, there are no strict formatting guidelines for the articles and second, there is no peer-review process. The main impact of these differences is that the publication process is much shorter. This saves researchers a lot of time before and also while submitting their work. Below are some of the leading pre-print servers.
ArXiv (pronounced like “archive”), launched in 1991, is run by the Cornell University Library and contains 1.37 million pre-print manuscripts covering a wide range of fields
SocArXiv is a pre-print repository for the social sciences.
BioRxiv was set up in 2013 by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Its main benefit is that it has a direct transfer service to many leading journals, including such Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).
EngrXiv is a pre-print repository for the engineering sciences. The University of Wisconsin – Stout launched it in July 2016.
ChemRxiv is a pre-print repository for chemistry. The American Chemical Society, Royal Society of Chemistry, and German Chemical Society maintain it.
PsyArXiv was launched in December 2016 and is a pre-print repository for the psychological sciences.
LawArXiv is a pre and post-print repository for legal content. The following institutions own and maintain it:
- Legal Information Preservation Alliance (LIPA)
- Mid-American Law Library Consortium (MALLCO)
- NELLCO Law Library Consortium, Inc. (NELLCO)
- Cornell Law Library
EarthArXiv is a pre-print repository that publishes articles from not only the earth sciences but also related fields.
The Benefits for Researchers
Sridhar Gutam, a plant scientist at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi, sees the most important virtue of pre-print repositories as a way to avoid predatory journals. These journals often charge researchers for submissions and can sometimes lack adequate peer-review and editing services. Both can have a negative effect on the quality of a published paper.
Also, researchers can publish papers submitted to a pre-print repository in an academic journal at a later time. This gives the researcher more time to receive feedback on their work, improve their work, and find the right journal or publication. Therefore, this gives a researcher’s work a second life.
Other benefits include:
- Increasing your list of publications.
- Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council recently announced that they will allow researchers to cite pre-prints in grant applications.
- Showcasing your knowledge and expertise by building a name for yourself in your research field.
- Making your research more available to other researchers.
- Pre-print repositories serve as an open forum where a researcher’s work can receive feedback from his or her peers. Readers can add comments on a manuscript, which can be viewed by all participants.
Looking to the Future
Indonesia (INA-Rxiv), India (IndiaRxiv), and also the continent of Africa (AfricArxiv) have developed pre-print repositories to disseminate their scientific research to a wider audience. The results for all three have exceeded expectations. INA-Rxiv, launched in August of 2017, recently reached a milestone when the number of papers on its server passed 1,500. “I didn’t think it would be this huge in such a short period of time,” says hydrogeologist Dasapta Erwin Irawan, one of the scientists who developed INA-Rxiv.
Pre-print repositories aim to change the way research is published and ideas are spread. No longer will researchers struggle through the submission process and fees imposed by predatory journals. In the future, the quality of work should be the focus of scientific research, rather than the pressure to be published in the “right” journal.
Submitting a manuscript to a pre-print server gives researchers the ability to stake their claim to an idea. It also provides a communal approach to the publishing arena, with researchers having the ability to improve their work through the feedback they receive from their peers. Then, when they are comfortable with their manuscript, they can find an appropriate journal for publication – one that focuses on giving them a chance to share their research rather than on collecting fees.
How have pre-print repositories helped you publish your work and disseminate your ideas? Please share your experiences with us in the comments.