The prehistory of biology preprints: a forgotten experiment from the 1960s

Author : Matthew Cobb

In 1961, the NIH began to circulate biological preprints in a forgotten experiment called the Information Exchange Groups (IEGs).

This system eventually attracted over 3600 participants and saw the production of over 2,500 different documents, but by 1967 it was effectively shut down by journal publishers’ refusal to accept articles that had been circulated as preprints.

This article charts the rise and fall of the IEGs and explores the parallels with the 1990s and the biomedical preprint movement of today.

URL : The prehistory of biology preprints: a forgotten experiment from the 1960s



Accelerating Scientific Publication in Biology

« Scientific publications enable results and ideas to be transmitted throughout the scientific community. The number and type of journal publications also have become the primary criteria used in evaluating career advancement. Our analysis suggests that publication practices have changed considerably in the life sciences over the past thirty years. Considerably more experimental data is now required for publication, and the average time required for graduate students to publish their first paper has increased and is approaching the desirable duration of Ph.D. training.

Since publication is generally a requirement for career progression, schemes to reduce the time of graduate student and postdoctoral training may be difficult to implement without also considering new mechanisms for accelerating communication of their work. The increasing time to publication also delays potential catalytic effects that ensue when many scientists have access to new information. The time has come for the life scientists, funding agencies, and publishers to discuss how to communicate new findings in a way that best serves the interests of the public and scientific community. »