In academic publishing, a preprint is a version of a scholarly or scientific paper that precedes publication in a peer-reviewed scholarly or scientific journal. The preprint may be available, often as a non-typeset version available free, before and/or after a paper is published in a journal.
Publication of manuscripts in a peer-reviewed journal often takes weeks, months or even years from the time of initial submission, owing to the time required by editors and reviewers to evaluate and critique manuscripts, and the time required by authors to address critiques. The need to quickly circulate current results within a scholarly community has led researchers to distribute documents known as preprints, which are manuscripts that have yet to undergo peer review. They may be considered as grey literature. The immediate distribution of preprints allows authors to receive early feedback from their peers, which may be helpful in revising and preparing articles for submission.
Since 1991, preprints have increasingly been distributed electronically on the Internet, rather than as paper copies. This has given rise to massive preprint databases such as arXiv.org and to institutional repositories.
In some journals, posting preprints may disqualify the research from submission for publication due to the Ingelfinger Rule. The majority of publishers however do allow work to be published to preprint servers before submission while others do not and are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
In January 2017, the Medical Research Council announced that they will now be actively supporting preprints with effect from April 2017. Also in January 2017, Wellcome Trust stated that they will now accept preprints in grant applications. In February 2017, a coalition of scientists and biomedical funding bodies including the National Institutes of Health, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust launched a proposal for a central site for life-sciences preprints. In February 2017, SciELO announced plans to set up a preprints server – SciELO Preprints. In March 2017, the National Institutes for Health issued a new policy encouraging research preprint submissions. In April 2017, Center for Open Science announced that it will be launching six new preprint archives.
While a preprint is an article that has not yet undergone peer review, a postprint is an article which has been peer reviewed in preparation for publication in a journal. Both the preprint and postprint may differ from the final published version of an article. Preprints and postprints together are referred to as e-prints or eprints.
The word reprint refers to hard copies of papers that have already been published; reprints can be produced by the journal publisher, but can also be generated from digital versions (for example, from an electronic database of peer-reviewed journals, such as EBSCOhost), or from eprints self-archived by their authors in their institutional repositories.
In academia, preprints are not likely to be weighed heavily when a scholar is evaluated for tenure or promotion, unless the preprint becomes the basis for a peer-reviewed publication.
Authorea was launched in 2012 as a collaborative writing platform used by researchers to write, cite, collaborate, host and post their articles. The site is the only preprint server that displays manuscripts as HTML with interactive figures and hosted data.
PeerJ PrePrints is a free preprint server operated by PeerJ. Articles submitted undergo a basic screening process but are not peer-reviewed. Commenting is allowed by any registered user, and download and pageview data are supplied. All articles are published with a CC-BY license. As of September 2016, 2,439 articles have been made available. Zenodo is a repository for research data that has been used also as preprint repository, because it offers document preview and a DOI number for the submitted document. MDPI launched an additional preprint server in 2016.
There are two servers for LIS and allied fields: Eprints in Library and Information Science (e-LIS) and the LIS Scholarship Archive (LISSA). e-LIS was launched in 2003, and is an international open access repository for academic papers in Library and Information Science (LIS), run by volunteers. LISSA was launched in 2017 as an open access repository for all materials created by those in LIS and allied fields, including work that happens outside the traditional realms of academia, such as oral histories, community works, code, data, and manuscripts. It is run by members of the library and archives community, and their technology partner, the Center for Open Science, using the Open Science Framework to host materials.
ArabiXiv will be a preprint server that will host manuscripts in many scientific disciplines in Arabic. It has been built in partnership with the Center for Open Science.
FrenXiv will be a preprint server that will host manuscripts in many scientific disciplines in French. It has also been built in partnership with the Center for Open Science.
The e-print archive arXiv (pronounced "archive") is one of the best-known preprint servers. It was created by Paul Ginsparg in 1991 at Los Alamos National Laboratory for the purpose of distributing theoretical high-energy physics preprints. In 2001, arXiv.org moved to Cornell University and now encompasses the fields of physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, statistics. Within the field of high-energy physics, the posting of preprints on arXiv is so common that many peer-reviewed journals allow submission of papers from arXiv directly, using the arXiv e-print number.
In some branches of physics, the arXiv database may serve as a focal point for the many criticisms made of the peer review process and peer-reviewed journals. In his column in Physics Today, April 1992, David Mermin described Ginsparg's creation as potentially "string theory's greatest contribution to science". About 8,000 preprints per month are uploaded to arXiv as of 2016.
An engineering preprint server, engrXiv, was launched in 2016 by the Center for Open Science and administrated by the University of Wisconsin–Stout. Whilst under development, it used a temporary email deposit system. As of April 2017, the official home for engrXiv went live after the web interface was launched in December 2016.
The ability to distribute manuscripts as preprints has had a great impact on computer science, particularly in the way that scientific research is disseminated in that field (see CiteSeer). The open access movement has tended to focus on distributed institutional collections of research, global harvesting, and aggregation through search engines and gateways such as OAIster, rather than a global discipline base such as arXiv. E-prints can now refer to any electronic form of a scholarly or scientific publication, including journal articles, conference papers, research theses or dissertations, because these usually are found in multidisciplinary collections, called open access repositories, or eprints archives.
The biological sciences have lagged behind the physical sciences in their use of preprints. Based on the success of arXiv, bioRxiv was introduced in 2013, operated by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Therapoid Preprint was launched in 2017 by Open Therapeutics, and ChemRxiv was announced in 2016 hosted by the American Chemical Society. In 2017, it was confirmed that ChemRxiv will be powered by figshare. Articles undergo basic screening for offensive and/or non-scientific content but do not undergo a peer review process.
One of the earlier preprint servers is PhilSci-Archive, launched in 2001 for all subfields of Philosophy of Science, hosted by the University Library System at the University of Pittsburgh.
An open archive of the social sciences. SocArXiv was formed in July 2016 by a group of sociologists, members of the academic library community, and their technology partner, the Center for Open Science, using the Open Science Framework. It is administratively housed at the University of Maryland and directed by Philip Cohen. SocArXiv officially launched in December 2016. Frequently asked questions about SocArXiv.
PsyArXiv is a similar preprint service for the psychological sciences which launched in 2016 by the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science and the Center for Open Science.
The Social Science Research Network is a repository for both working papers and accepted papers, which shows download and citation data within the site for each stored paper. In May 2016, SSRN was acquired by Elsevier.
Under construction at the end of 2016 is an Agriculture preprint repository AgriXiv which will be launched with support from Open Science Framework. AgrXiv was pre-launched in early February 2017 on a staging server on GitHub and then formally launched later that month on Open Science Framework by the Open Access India, community of practice advocating Open Access in India.
Under construction in December 2016 and due to launch in early 2017 is PaleorXiv which will be launched with support from Open Science Framework. As of May 2017, PaleorXiv is now open for submissions. The first submissions appeared online in August 2017.
Under construction in April 2017 is SportRxiv, a preprint archiving service for the sport, exercise, and rehabilitation sciences which was launched in August 2017 with support from Open Science Framework.
Launched in August 2017 is Thesis Commons, a preprint service for free open publication of student theses and dissertations supported by Open Science Framework.
MedArXiv is a preprint service for the medicine and health sciences which is under development with support from Open Science Framework. It was announced in September 2017 by Harlan Krumholz at American Medical Association's Eighth International Congress on Peer Review and Scientific Publication.
Two preprint servers in the field of geoscience were confirmed in September 2017. The Earth and Space Science Open Archive (ESSOAr) run by The American Geophysical Union (AGU) is scheduled to launch in November 2017.
MarXiv is a free research repository for ocean-conservation and marine-climate science. Initial funding was provided by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation. It is due to launch in November 2017 via the Center for Open Science Preprints framework.
ECSasXiv is a preprint research repository for electrochemistry, solid state science and technology. It will be run by The Electrochemistry Society and built and hosted by Open Science Framework.