Clickbait or conspiracy? How Twitter users address the epistemic uncertainty of a controversial preprint

Authors : Mareike Bauer, Maximilian Heimstädt, Carlos Franzreb, Sonja Schimmler

Many scientists share preprints on social media platforms to gain attention from academic peers, policy-makers, and journalists. In this study we shed light on an unintended but highly consequential effect of sharing preprints: Their contribution to conspiracy theories. Although the scientific community might quickly dismiss a preprint as insubstantial and ‘clickbaity’, its uncertain epistemic status nevertheless allows conspiracy theorists to mobilize the text as scientific support for their own narratives.

To better understand the epistemic politics of preprints on social media platforms, we studied the case of a biomedical preprint, which was shared widely and discussed controversially on Twitter in the wake of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Using a combination of social network analysis and qualitative content analysis, we compared the structures of engagement with the preprint and the discursive practices of scientists and conspiracy theorists.

We found that despite substantial engagement, scientists were unable to dampen the conspiracy theorists’ enthusiasm for the preprint. We further found that members from both groups not only tried to reduce the preprint’s epistemic uncertainty but sometimes deliberately maintained it.

The maintenance of epistemic uncertainty helped conspiracy theorists to reinforce their group’s identity as skeptics and allowed scientists to express concerns with the state of their profession.

Our study contributes to research on the intricate relations between scientific knowledge and conspiracy theories online, as well as the role of social media platforms for new genres of scholarly communication.

URL : Clickbait or conspiracy? How Twitter users address the epistemic uncertainty of a controversial preprint


The rise of preprints in earth sciences

Authors : Olivier Pourret, Daniel Enrique Ibarra

The rate of science information’s spread has accelerated in recent years. In this context, it appears that many scientific disciplines are beginning to recognize the value and possibility of sharing open access (OA) online manuscripts in their preprint form.

Preprints are academic papers that are published but have not yet been evaluated by peers. They have existed in research at least since the 1960s and the creation of ArXiv in physics and mathematics. Since then, preprint platforms—which can be publisher- or community-driven, profit or not for profit, and based on proprietary or free and open source software—have gained popularity in many fields (for example, bioRxiv for the biological sciences).

Today, there are many platforms that are either disciplinary-specific or cross-domain, with exponential development over the past ten years. Preprints as a whole still make up a very small portion of scholarly publishing, but a large group of early adopters are testing out these value-adding tools across a much wider range of disciplines than in the past.

In this opinion article, we provide perspective on the three main options available for earth scientists, namely EarthArXiv, ESSOAr/ESS Open Archive and EGUsphere.

A scoping review on the use and acceptability of preprints

Authors : Amanda Blatch-Jones, Alejandra Recio Saucedo, Beth Giddins


Preprints are open and accessible scientific manuscript or report that has not been submitted to a peer reviewed journal. The value and importance of preprints has grown since its contribution during the public health emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic. Funders and publishers are establishing their position on the use of preprints, in grant applications and publishing models.

However, the evidence supporting the use and acceptability of preprints varies across funders, publishers, and researchers. The purpose of this scoping review was to explore the current evidence on the use and acceptability of preprints by publishers, funders, and the research community throughout the research lifecycle.


A scoping review was undertaken with no study or language limits. The search strategy was limited to the last five years (2017-2022) to capture changes influenced by COVID-19 (e.g., accelerated use and role of preprints in research). The review included international literature, including grey literature, and two databases were searched: Scopus and Web of Science (24 August 2022).


379 titles and abstracts and 193 full text articles were assessed for eligibility. Ninety-eight articles met eligibility criteria and were included for full extraction. For barriers and challenges, 26 statements were grouped under four main themes (e.g., volume/growth of publications, quality assurance/trustworthiness, risks associated to credibility, and validation).

For benefits and value, 34 statements were grouped under six themes (e.g., openness/transparency, increased visibility/credibility, open review process, open research, democratic process/systems, increased productivity/opportunities).


Preprints provide opportunities for rapid dissemination but there is a need for clear policies and guidance from journals, publishers, and funders. Cautionary measures are needed to maintain the quality and value of preprints, paying particular attention to how findings are translated to the public. More research is needed to address some of the uncertainties addressed in this review.


To Preprint or Not to Preprint: Experience and Attitudes of Researchers Worldwide

Authors : Rong Ni, Ludo Waltman

The pandemic has underlined the significance of open science and spurred further growth of preprinting. Nevertheless, preprinting has been adopted at varying rates across different countries/regions.

To investigate researchers’ experience with and attitudes toward preprinting, we conducted a survey of authors of research papers published in 2021 or 2022. We find that respondents in the US and Europe had a higher level of familiarity with and adoption of preprinting than those in China and the rest of the world. Respondents in China were most worried about the lack of recognition for preprinting and the risk of getting scooped.

US respondents were very concerned about premature media coverage of preprints, the reliability and credibility of preprints, and public sharing of information before peer review. Respondents identified integration of preprinting in journal submission processes as the most important way to promote preprinting.


PreprintMatch: A tool for preprint to publication detection shows global inequities in scientific publication

Authors : Peter Eckmann, Anita Bandrowski

Preprints, versions of scientific manuscripts that precede peer review, are growing in popularity. They offer an opportunity to democratize and accelerate research, as they have no publication costs or a lengthy peer review process. Preprints are often later published in peer-reviewed venues, but these publications and the original preprints are frequently not linked in any way.

To this end, we developed a tool, PreprintMatch, to find matches between preprints and their corresponding published papers, if they exist. This tool outperforms existing techniques to match preprints and papers, both on matching performance and speed. PreprintMatch was applied to search for matches between preprints (from bioRxiv and medRxiv), and PubMed.

The preliminary nature of preprints offers a unique perspective into scientific projects at a relatively early stage, and with better matching between preprint and paper, we explored questions related to research inequity.

We found that preprints from low income countries are published as peer-reviewed papers at a lower rate than high income countries (39.6% and 61.1%, respectively), and our data is consistent with previous work that cite a lack of resources, lack of stability, and policy choices to explain this discrepancy.

Preprints from low income countries were also found to be published quicker (178 vs 203 days) and with less title, abstract, and author similarity to the published version compared to high income countries. Low income countries add more authors from the preprint to the published version than high income countries (0.42 authors vs 0.32, respectively), a practice that is significantly more frequent in China compared to similar countries.

Finally, we find that some publishers publish work with authors from lower income countries more frequently than others.

URL : PreprintMatch: A tool for preprint to publication detection shows global inequities in scientific publication


The Preprint Club – A cross-institutional, community-based approach to peer reviewing

Authors : Felix Clemens Richter, Ester Gea-Mallorquí, Nicolas Ruffin, Nicolas Vabret

The academic community has been increasingly using preprints to disseminate their latest research findings quickly and openly. This early and open access of non-peer reviewed research warrants new means from the scientific community to efficiently assess and provide feedback to preprints. Yet, most peer review of scientific studies performed today are still managed by journals, each having their own peer review policy and transparency.

However, approaches to uncouple the peer review process from journal publication are emerging. Additionally, formal education of early career researchers (ECRs) in peer reviewing is rarely available, hampering the quality of peer review feedback.

Here, we introduce the Preprint Club, a cross-institutional, community-based approach to peer reviewing, founded by ECRs from the University of Oxford, Karolinska Institutet and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Over the past two years and using the collaborative setting of the Preprint Club, we have been discussing, assessing, and providing feedback on recent preprints in the field of immunology.

In this article, we provide a blueprint of the Preprint Club basic structure, demonstrate its effectiveness, and detail the lessons we learned on its impact on peer review training and preprint author’s perception.


Comparison of Study Results Reported in medRxiv Preprints vs Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

Authors : Guneet Janda, Vishal Khetpal, Xiaoting Shi, Joseph S. Ross, Joshua D. Wallach


What is the concordance among sample size, primary end points, results for primary end points, and interpretations described in preprints of clinical studies posted on medRxiv that are subsequently published in peer-reviewed journals (preprint-journal article pairs)?


In this cross-sectional study of 547 clinical studies that were initially posted to medRxiv and later published in peer-reviewed journals, 86.4% of preprint-journal article pairs were concordant in terms of sample size, 97.6% in terms of primary end points, 81.1% in terms of results of primary end points, and 96.2% in terms of study interpretations.


This study suggests that most clinical studies posted as preprints on medRxiv and subsequently published in peer-reviewed journals had concordant study characteristics, results, and final interpretations.

URL : Comparison of Clinical Study Results Reported in medRxiv Preprints vs Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

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