Comparing quality of reporting between preprints and peer-reviewed articles in the biomedical literature

Authors : Clarissa F. D. Carneiro, Victor G. S. Queiroz, Thiago C. Moulin, Carlos A. M. Carvalho, Clarissa B. Haas, Danielle Rayêe, David E. Henshall, Evandro A. De-Souza, Felippe Espinelli, Flávia Z. Boos, Gerson D. Guercio, Igor R. Costa, Karina L. Hajdu, Martin Modrák, Pedro B. Tan, Steven J. Burgess, Sylvia F. S. Guerra, Vanessa T. Bortoluzzi, Olavo B. Amara

Preprint usage is growing rapidly in the life sciences; however, questions remain on the relative quality of preprints when compared to published articles. An objective dimension of quality that is readily measurable is completeness of reporting, as transparency can improve the reader’s ability to independently interpret data and reproduce findings.

In this observational study, we compared random samples of articles published in bioRxiv and in PubMed-indexed journals in 2016 using a quality of reporting questionnaire. We found that peer-reviewed articles had, on average, higher quality of reporting than preprints, although this difference was small.

We found larger differences favoring PubMed in subjective ratings of how clearly titles and abstracts presented the main findings and how easy it was to locate relevant reporting information.

Interestingly, an exploratory analysis showed that preprints with figures and legends embedded within text had reporting scores similar to PubMed articles.

These differences cannot be directly attributed to peer review or editorial processes, as manuscripts might already differ before submission due to greater uptake of preprints by particular research communities.

Nevertheless, our results show that quality of reporting in preprints in the life sciences is within a similar range as that of peer-reviewed articles, albeit slightly lower on average, supporting the idea that preprints should be considered valid scientific contributions.

An ongoing second phase of the project is comparing preprints to their own published versions in order to more directly assess the effects of peer review.

URL : Comparing quality of reporting between preprints and peer-reviewed articles in the biomedical literature


Literature practices: processes leading up to a citation

Authors : Nikolai Klitzing, Rink Hoekstra, Jan-Willem Strijbos


Literature practices represent the process leading up to the citation of a source, and consist of the selection, reading and citing of sources. The purpose of this paper is to explore possible factors that might influence researchers during this process and discover possible consequences of researchers’ citation behaviours.


In this exploratory study, various factors which could influence literature practices were explored via a questionnaire amongst 112 researchers. Participants were first authors of articles published in 2016 in one of five different journals within the disciplines of experimental psychology, educational sciences and social psychology. Academic positions of the participants ranged from PhD student to full professor.


Frequencies and percentages showed that researchers seemed to be influenced in their literature practices by various factors, such as editors suggesting articles and motivation to cite.

Additionally, a high percentage of researchers reported taking shortcuts when citing articles (e.g. using secondary citations and reading selectively). Logistic regression did not reveal a clear relationship between academic work experience and research practices.

Practical implications

Seeing that researchers seem to be influenced by a variety of factors in their literature practices, the scientific community might benefit from better citation practices and guidelines in order to provide more structure to the process of literature practices.


This paper provides first insights into researchers’ literature practices. Possible reasons for problems with citation accuracy and replicating research findings are highlighted. Opportunities for further research on the topic of citation behaviours are presented.


AccessLab: Workshops to broaden access to scientific research

Authors : Amber G. F. Griffiths, Ivvet Modinou, Clio Heslop, Charlotte Brand, Aidan Weatherill, Kate Baker, Anna E. Hughes, Jen Lewis, Lee de Mora, Sara Mynott, Katherine E. Roberts, David J. Griffiths, Iain Hrynaszkiewicz​, Natasha Simons​, Azhar Hussain​,​ Simon Goudie

AccessLabs are workshops with two simultaneous motivations, achieved through direct citizen-scientist pairings: (1) to decentralise research skills so that a broader range of people are able to access/use scientific research, and (2) to expose science researchers to the difficulties of using their research as an outsider, creating new open access advocates.

Five trial AccessLabs have taken place for policy makers, media/journalists, marine sector participants, community groups, and artists. The act of pairing science academics with local community members helps build understanding and trust between groups at a time when this relationship appears to be under increasing threat from different political and economic currents in society.

Here, we outline the workshop motivations, format, and evaluation, with the aim that others can build on the methods developed.

URL : AccessLab: Workshops to broaden access to scientific research


Developing a research data policy framework for all journals and publishers

Authors : Iain Hrynaszkiewicz​, Natasha Simons​, Azhar Hussain​,​ Simon Goudie

More journals and publishers – and funding agencies and institutions – are introducing research data policies. But as the prevalence of policies increases, there is potential to confuse researchers and support staff with numerous or conflicting policy requirements.

We define and describe 14 features of journal research data policies and arrange these into a set of six standard policy types or tiers, which can be adopted by journals and publishers to promote data sharing in a way that encourages good practice and is appropriate for their audience’s perceived needs.

Policy features include coverage of topics such as data citation, data repositories, data availability statements, data standards and formats, and peer review of research data.

These policy features and types have been created by reviewing the policies of multiple scholarly publishers, which collectively publish more than 10,000 journals, and through discussions and consensus building with multiple stakeholders in research data policy via the Data Policy Standardisation and Implementation Interest Group of the Research Data Alliance.

Implementation guidelines for the standard research data policies for journals and publishers are also provided, along with template policy texts which can be implemented by journals in their Information for Authors and publishing workflows.

We conclude with a call for collaboration across the scholarly publishing and wider research community to drive further implementation and adoption of consistent research data policies.

URL : Developing a research data policy framework for all journals and publishers

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Library Subscriptions and Open Access: Highlights from the University of California Negotiations with Elsevier

Authors : Cory Tucker, Andrea Wirth, Annette Day

On February 28, 2019, the University of California (UC) System announced the cancellation of their $50 million journal subscription deal with Elsevier. The impetus behind the UC decision comes from two issues.

Firstly, the increasing costs of journal subscriptions in a landscape where library budgets remain flat. Secondly, the effort to shift the journal publishing model away from subscriptions to a sustainable open access model.

The following paper will provide background on issues with the scholarly communication process, academic library budgets and open access initiatives. Additional information will focus on the impact of journal subscription deals with large commercial publishers (including Elsevier) and highlight UNLV efforts to support open access.


Assessing the size of the affordability problem in scholarly publishing

Authors : Alexander Grossmann, Björn Brembs​

For many decades, the hyperinflation of subscription prices for scholarly journals have concerned scholarly institutions. After years of fruitless efforts to solve this “serials crisis”, open access has been proposed as the latest potential solution. However, also the prices for open access publishing are high and are rising well beyond inflation.

What has been missing from the public discussion so far is a quantitative approach to determine the actual costs of efficiently publishing a scholarly article using state-of-the-art technologies, such that informed decisions can be made as to appropriate price levels.

Here we provide a granular, step-by-step calculation of the costs associated with publishing primary research articles, from submission, through peer-review, to publication, indexing and archiving.

We find that these costs range from less than US$200 per article in modern, large scale publishing platforms using post-publication peer-review, to about US$1,000 per article in prestigious journals with rejection rates exceeding 90%.

The publication costs for a representative scholarly article today come to lie at around US$400. We discuss the additional non-publication items that make up the difference between publication costs and final price.

URL : Assessing the size of the affordability problem in scholarly publishing


Open access policies of leading medical journals: a cross-sectional study

Authors : Tim S Ellison, Laura Schmidt, Amy Williams, Christopher C Winchester


Academical and not-for-profit research funders are increasingly requiring that the research they fund must be published open access, with some insisting on publishing with a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to allow the broadest possible use.

We aimed to clarify the open access variants provided by leading medical journals and record the availability of the CC BY licence for commercially funded research.


We identified medical journals with a 2015 impact factor of ≥15.0 on 24 May 2017, then excluded from the analysis journals that only publish review articles. Between 29 June 2017 and 26 July 2017, we collected information about each journal’s open access policies from their websites and/or by email contact.

We contacted the journals by email again between 6 December 2017 and 2 January 2018 to confirm our findings.


Thirty-five medical journals publishing original research from 13 publishers were included in the analysis. All 35 journals offered some form of open access allowing articles to be free-to-read, either immediately on publication or after a delay of up to 12 months.

Of these journals, 21 (60%) provided immediate open access with a CC BY licence under certain circumstances (eg, to specific research funders). Of these 21, 20 only offered a CC BY licence to authors funded by non-commercial organisations and one offered this option to any funder who required it.


Most leading medical journals do not offer to authors reporting commercially funded research an open access licence that allows unrestricted sharing and adaptation of the published material.

The journals’ policies are therefore not aligned with open access declarations and guidelines. Commercial research funders lag behind academical funders in the development of mandatory open access policies, and it is time for them to work with publishers to advance the dissemination of the research they fund.

URL : Open access policies of leading medical journals: a cross-sectional study