When will preprints take off in medicine?

Tim Ellison

Use of preprints, the public posting of research articles before peer-reviewed publication, is increasing rapidly, with the number of preprints posted to repositories each month almost doubling in the past year. Researchers post preprints to help quickly disseminate their latest scientific findings and lay claim to their discoveries, and to gather feedback from the scientific community that they can use to improve their manuscripts before submitting them for peer review. Discussions in the Open Pharma project have identified preprints as one of the major recent innovations in publication practice that increases the transparency, speed and openness of scientific research, which could benefit academics, pharma and other stakeholders in medical research.

Despite these potential benefits, at the moment, preprints are very rarely posted for work sponsored by pharma. Unlike open access, the concept is not well known in the industry, and the first barrier to use of preprints is lack of awareness of what they are. To begin to address this, we investigated current educational resources on preprints to add to those we posted on open access last week. Our search method is at the bottom of this article. The most useful resources we found were:

Educational materials about preprints overlapped in content, just like the open access materials. There were, however, noticeably more videos and webinars about preprints than about open access, and they were informative and easily accessible. We identified ASAPbio, a key initiative for promoting the use of preprints in life sciences, as the major repository for preprint educational materials.

Currently, the materials are aimed at a range of stakeholders, including researchers, societies, publishers and funders, but not pharma companies or their academic collaborators. We are therefore considering the need to develop educational material on preprints specifically for pharma audiences, alongside potential materials covering open access.

Please comment below or contact us here to share your thoughts on what material would be useful for you.


Search method

We searched Google using the terms ‘what is open access’, ‘open access education’, ‘why open access’, ‘what are preprints’, ‘preprint education’ and ‘why preprints’. We also searched for ‘#openaccess’ and ‘#preprints’ on Twitter. We manually selected items on the basis of relevance.