A systematic examination of preprint platforms for use in the medical and biomedical sciences setting

Authors : Jamie J Kirkham, Naomi Penfold, Fiona Murphy, Isabelle Boutron, John PA Ioannidis, Jessica K Polka, David Moher


The objective of this review is to identify all preprint platforms with biomedical and medical scope and to compare and contrast the key characteristics and policies of these platforms. We also aim to provide a searchable database to enable relevant stakeholders to compare between platforms.

Study Design and Setting

Preprint platforms that were launched up to 25th June 2019 and have a biomedical and medical scope according to MEDLINE’s journal selection criteria were identified using existing lists, web-based searches and the expertise of both academic and non-academic publication scientists.

A data extraction form was developed, pilot-tested and used to collect data from each preprint platform’s webpage(s). Data collected were in relation to scope and ownership; content-specific characteristics and information relating to submission, journal transfer options, and external discoverability; screening, moderation, and permanence of content; usage metrics and metadata.

Where possible, all online data were verified by the platform owner or representative by correspondence.


A total of 44 preprint platforms were identified as having biomedical and medical scope, 17 (39%) were hosted by the Open Science Framework preprint infrastructure, six (14%) were provided by F1000 Research Ltd (the Open Research Central infrastructure) and 21 (48%) were other independent preprint platforms. Preprint platforms were either owned by non-profit academic groups, scientific societies or funding organisations (n=28; 64%), owned/partly owned by for-profit publishers or companies (n=14; 32%) or owned by individuals/small communities (n=2; 5%).

Twenty-four (55%) preprint platforms accepted content from all scientific fields although some of these had restrictions relating to funding source, geographical region or an affiliated journal’s remit.

Thirty-three (75%) preprint platforms provided details about article screening (basic checks) and 14 (32%) of these actively involved researchers with context expertise in the screening process.

The three most common screening checks related to the scope of the article, plagiarism and legal/ethical/societal issues and compliance. Almost all preprint platforms allow submission to any peer-reviewed journal following publication, have a preservation plan for read-access, and most have a policy regarding reasons for retraction and the sustainability of the service.

Forty-one (93%) platforms currently have usage metrics, with the most common metric being the number of downloads presented on the abstract page.


A large number of preprint platforms exist for use in biomedical and medical sciences, all of which offer researchers an opportunity to rapidly disseminate their research findings onto an open-access public server, subject to scope and eligibility.

However, the process by which content is screened before online posting and withdrawn or removed after posting varies between platforms, which may be associated with platform operation, ownership, governance and financing.

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.04.27.063578

Open Access and Altmetrics in the pandemic age: Forescast analysis on COVID-19 literature

Authors : Daniel Torres-Salinas, Nicolas Robinson-Garcia, Pedro A. Castillo-Valdivieso

We present an analysis on the uptake of open access on COVID-19 related literature as well as the social media attention they gather when compared with non OA papers.

We use a dataset of publications curated by Dimensions and analyze articles and preprints. Our sample includes 11,686 publications of which 67.5% are openly accessible.

OA publications tend to receive the largest share of social media attention as measured by the Altmetric Attention Score. 37.6% of OA publications are bronze, which means toll journals are providing free access.

MedRxiv contributes to 36.3% of documents in repositories but papers in BiorXiv exhibit on average higher AAS. We predict the growth of COVID-19 literature in the following 30 days estimating ARIMA models for the overall publications set, OA vs. non OA and by location of the document (repository vs. journal).

We estimate that COVID-19 publications will double in the next 20 days, but non OA publications will grow at a higher rate than OA publications. We conclude by discussing the implications of such findings on the dissemination and communication of research findings to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak.

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.04.23.057307

Preprints and Scholarly Communication: An Exploratory Qualitative Study of Adoption, Practices, Drivers and Barriers

Authors : Andrea Chiarelli, Rob Johnson, Stephen Pinfield, Emma Richens


Since 2013, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of preprint servers. Little is known about the position of researchers, funders, research performing organisations and other stakeholders with respect to this fast-paced landscape.

In this article, we explore the perceived benefits and challenges of preprint posting, alongside issues including infrastructure and financial sustainability. We also discuss the definition of a ‘preprint’ in different communities, and the impact this has on uptake.


This study is based on 38 semi-structured interviews of key stakeholders, based on a purposive heterogeneous sampling approach and undertaken between October 2018 and January 2019.

Interviewees were primarily drawn from biology, chemistry and psychology, where use of preprints is growing. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and subjected to thematic analysis to identify trends. Interview questions were designed based on Innovation Diffusion Theory, which was also used to interpret our results.


Participants were conscious of the rising prominence of preprints and cited early and fast dissemination as their most appealing feature. Preprints were also considered to enable broader access to scientific literature and increased opportunities for informal commenting.

The main concerns related to the lack of quality assurance and the ‘Ingelfinger rule’. We identified trust as an essential factor in preprint posting, and highlight the enabling role of Twitter in showcasing preprints.


The preprints landscape is evolving fast, and disciplinary communities are at different stages in the innovation diffusion process. The landscape is characterised by experimentation, which leads to the conclusion that a one-size-fits-all approach to preprints is not feasible.

Cooperation and active engagement between the stakeholders involved will play an important role going forward. We share questions for the further development of the preprints landscape, with the most important being whether preprint posting will develop as a publisher- or researcher-centric practice.

URL : Preprints and Scholarly Communication: An Exploratory Qualitative Study of Adoption, Practices, Drivers and Barriers

DOI : https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.19619.2

Peer review and preprint policies are unclear at most major journals

Authors : Thomas Klebel, Stefan Reichmann, Jessica Polka, Gary McDowell, Naomi Penfold, Samantha Hindle, Tony Ross-Hellauer

Clear and findable publishing policies are important for authors to choose appropriate journals for publication. We investigated the clarity of policies of 171 major academic journals across disciplines regarding peer review and preprinting.

31.6% of journals surveyed do not provide information on the type of peer review they use. Information on whether preprints can be posted or not is unclear in 39.2% of journals. 58.5% of journals offer no clear information on whether reviewer identities are revealed to authors.

Around 75% of journals have no clear policy on coreviewing, citation of preprints, and publication of reviewer identities. Information regarding practices of Open Peer Review is even more scarce, with <20% of journals providing clear information.

Having found a lack of clear information, we conclude by examining the implications this has for researchers (especially early career) and the spread of open research practices.

URL : Peer review and preprint policies are unclear at most major journals

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.01.24.918995

Releasing a preprint is associated with more attention and citations for the peer-reviewed article

Authors : Darwin Y. Fu, Jacob J Hughey

Preprints in biology are becoming more popular, but only a small fraction of the articles published in peer-reviewed journals have previously been released as preprints.

To examine whether releasing a preprint on bioRxiv was associated with the attention and citations received by the corresponding peer-reviewed article, we assembled a dataset of 74,239 articles, 5,405 of which had a preprint, published in 39 journals.

Using log-linear regression and random-effects meta-analysis, we found that articles with a preprint had, on average, a 49% higher Altmetric Attention Score and 36% more citations than articles without a preprint.

These associations were independent of several other article- and author-level variables (such as scientific subfield and number of authors), and were unrelated to journal-level variables such as access model and Impact Factor.

This observational study can help researchers and publishers make informed decisions about how to incorporate preprints into their work.

URL : https://elifesciences.org/articles/52646

bioRxiv: the preprint server for biology

Authors : Richard Sever, Ted Roeder, Samantha Hindle, Linda Sussman, Kevin-John Black, Janet Argentine, Wayne Manos, John R. Inglis

The traditional publication process delays dissemination of new research, often by months, sometimes by years. Preprint servers decouple dissemination of research papers from their evaluation and certification by journals, allowing researchers to share work immediately, receive feedback from a much larger audience, and provide evidence of productivity long before formal publication.

Launched in 2013 as a non-profit community service, the bioRxiv server has brought preprint practice to the life sciences and recently posted its 64,000th manuscript.

The server now receives more than four million views per month and hosts papers spanning all areas of biology. Initially dominated by evolutionary biology, genetics/genomics and computational biology, bioRxiv has been increasingly populated by papers in neuroscience, cell and developmental biology, and many other fields.

Changes in journal and funder policies that encourage preprint posting have helped drive adoption, as has the development of bioRxiv technologies that allow authors to transfer papers easily between the server and journals.

A bioRxiv user survey found that 42% of authors post their preprints prior to journal submission whereas 37% post concurrently with journal submission. Authors are motivated by a desire to share work early; they value the feedback they receive, and very rarely experience any negative consequences of preprint posting.

Rapid dissemination via bioRxiv is also encouraging new initiatives that experiment with the peer review process and the development of novel approaches to literature filtering and assessment.

URL : bioRxiv: the preprint server for biology

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1101/833400

Technical and social issues influencing the adoption of preprints in the life sciences

Authors : Naomi C Penfold, Jessica K Polka

Preprints are gaining visibility in many fields. Thanks to the explosion of bioRxiv, an online server for preprints in biology, versions of manuscripts prior to the completion of journal-organized peer review are poised to become a standard component of the publishing experience in the life sciences.

Here we provide an overview of current challenges facing preprints, both technical and social, and a vision for their future development, from unbundling the functions of publication to exploring different communication formats.

DOI : https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.27954v1