Preprints: a definition
First, a definition is called for. The Council on Publication Ethics (COPE) defines a preprint as: "A scholarly manuscript posted by the author(s) in an openly accessible platform, usually before or in parallel with the peer review process."
Preprints are open access, and they reside on preprint servers, which are online archives or repositories of works or data.
The case for preprint servers
Proponents of preprint servers cite a number of advantages they offer, including:
- Rapid dissemination of your work – First and foremost, preprint servers give authors the opportunity to get their discoveries into the academic arena quickly, thereby bypassing the delays resulting from the peer review process.
- Public record of scientific discoveries – Preprint servers, in addition to rapidly disseminating your work, also establish priority in major scientific advances.
- Feedback from peers – Preprint servers let authors receive feedback from peers in order to improve the quality of the manuscript; this is in addition to feedback from the formal peer review process.
- Meet funding mandates – As preprint servers are open access, they help authors to meet funder mandates for the open publication of resulting research.
The future of preprint servers
At present it looks like preprint servers, like the open access movement, are going to see continued growth. It is a seminal moment for medical publishing, one that will see new processes for the publication of medical research.