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


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.


The effect of bioRxiv preprints on citations and altmetrics

Authors : Nicholas Fraser, Fakhri Momeni, Philipp Mayr, Isabella Peters

A potential motivation for scientists to deposit their scientific work as preprints is to enhance its citation or social impact, an effect which has been empirically observed for preprints in physics, astronomy and mathematics deposited to arXiv. In this study we assessed the citation and altmetric advantage of bioRxiv, a preprint server for the biological sciences.

We retrieved metadata of all bioRxiv preprints deposited between November 2013 and December 2017, and matched them to articles that were subsequently published in peer-reviewed journals. Citation data from Scopus and altmetric data from were used to compare citation and online sharing behaviour of bioRxiv preprints, their related journal articles, and non-deposited articles published in the same journals.

We found that bioRxiv-deposited journal articles received a sizeable citation and altmetric advantage over non-deposited articles. Regression analysis reveals that this advantage is not explained by multiple explanatory variables related to the article and its authorship.

bioRxiv preprints themselves are being directly cited in journal articles, regardless of whether the preprint has been subsequently published in a journal. bioRxiv preprints are also shared widely on Twitter and in blogs, but remain relatively scarce in mainstream media and Wikipedia articles, in comparison to peer-reviewed journal articles.


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


arXiv and the Symbiosis of Physics Preprints and Journal Review Articles: A Model

Author : Brian Simboli

This paper recommends a publishing model that can help achieve the goal of reforming physics publishing. It distinguishes two complementary needs in scholarly communication.

Preprints, increasingly important in science, are properly the vehicle for claiming priority of discovery and for eliciting feedback that will help with versioning.

Traditional journal publishing, however, should focus on providing synthesis in the form of overlay journals that play the same role as review articles.


Preprints in Scholarly Communication: Re-Imagining Metrics and Infrastructures

Authors : B. Preedip Balaji, M. Dhanamjaya

Digital scholarship and electronic publishing among the scholarly communities are changing when metrics and open infrastructures take centre stage for measuring research impact. In scholarly communication, the growth of preprint repositories over the last three decades as a new model of scholarly publishing has emerged as one of the major developments.

As it unfolds, the landscape of scholarly communication is transitioning, as much is being privatized as it is being made open and towards alternative metrics, such as social media attention, author-level, and article-level metrics. Moreover, the granularity of evaluating research impact through new metrics and social media change the objective standards of evaluating research performance.

Using preprint repositories as a case study, this article situates them in a scholarly web, examining their salient features, benefits, and futures. Towards scholarly web development and publishing on semantic and social web with open infrastructures, citations, and alternative metrics—how preprints advance building web as data is discussed.

We examine that this will viably demonstrate new metrics and in enhancing research publishing tools in scholarly commons facilitating various communities of practice.

However, for the preprint repositories to sustain, scholarly communities and funding agencies should support continued investment in open knowledge, alternative metrics development, and open infrastructures in scholarly publishing.

URL : Preprints in Scholarly Communication: Re-Imagining Metrics and Infrastructures


On the value of preprints: an early career researcher perspective

Authors : Sarvenaz Sarabipour​, Humberto J Debat, Edward Emmott, Steven Burgess, Benjamin Schwessinger, Zach Hensel

Peer-reviewed journal publication is the main means for academic researchers in the life sciences to create a permanent, public record of their work. These publications are also the de facto currency for career progress, with a strong link between journal brand recognition and perceived value.

The current peer-review process can lead to long delays between submission and publication, with cycles of rejection, revision and resubmission causing redundant peer review.

This situation creates unique challenges for early career researchers (ECRs), who rely heavily on timely publication of their work to gain recognition for their efforts. ECRs face changes in the academic landscape including the increased interdisciplinarity of life sciences research, expansion of the researcher population and consequent shifts in employer and funding demands.

The publication of preprints, publicly available scientific manuscripts posted on dedicated preprint servers prior to journal managed peer-review, can play a key role in addressing these ECR challenges.

Preprinting benefits include rapid dissemination of academic work, open access, establishing priority or concurrence, receiving feedback and facilitating collaborations. While there is a growing appreciation for and adoption of preprints, a minority of all articles in life sciences and medicine are preprinted.

The current low rate of preprint submissions in life sciences and ECR concerns regarding preprinting needs to be addressed.

We provide a perspective from an interdisciplinary group of early career researchers on the value of preprints and advocate the wide adoption of preprints to advance knowledge and facilitate career development.

URL : On the value of preprints: an early career researcher perspective