Preprinst and science publishing

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Maybe you read lately a scientific article in Socarxiv, Arxiv ,Bioarxiv and you thought that those platforms where like journals but they are actually called “preprints». The impact of changes in communication technology, in science communication (communication between scientists, not only the communication between the scientific community and the public), and scholarly communication, is huge. I find it interesting that in Argentina or Latin America, or in spanish generally, science communication is referred with other words such as “divulgation” or it means widely communication to society. But, scholarly communication is more specific, it refers to ways in which scientists make their work available to another scientists, in some way.

Preprints were first used in natural and exact sciences, but they have reached humanities and social sciences in the last years (that is the case with Socarxiv). One of the reasons for the acceleration of this trend is how much time the peer review process takes, to have a paper finally published in a journal From my experience, you can wait around 6 months to a year for a reply of your submission, and sometimes, that reply is for a “you’re manuscript does not adequate to the Journal subject areas”, “your manuscript wasn’t accepted” due to major reviews (some reviewers are nice enough to point out what you need to address in your research). These are colosal times, specially nowadays, and with the pandemics it was clear that the times of science were a problem, because society couldn’t wait for an article to go through the traditional process to be published.

The COVID-19 pandemic implied an acceleration of this trend, as lifes could be saved with a published finding that would approve (or make trustable) a vaccine or medication Thus, this trend of publishing preprints, accepting these preliminary results, and even reviewing a preprint arised .

Also, this trend is supported by universities, labs and even charities/foundations which aim at promoting open science. This is due to the fact that in order to be published in some journals you need to paya round 1500 usd, and readers can access by paying from 20 to 30 usd also This is unthinkable in countries like Argentina, that money would have to be from the researcher/scientist’ pocket. With open science as a new goal for academic institutions, libraries and scholarly communications have become central for research . Between 2021 and 2022 la Universidad de California hizo acuerdos importantes por ejemplo, con publishers como Elsevier to assure open access to articles (even though they would still have to pay for articles to be reviewed). Bioarxiv has the support of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (THE place where scientists and nobel prizes gather (biologists, chemists, etc.); Arxiv seems to belong to Cornell University, and, Socarxiv to the University of Maryland, and so on Lastly, Bioarxiv received funding through the CHSL, from Mark Zuckerberg and Prischilla Chan’s foundation (Chan Zuckerberg Foundation).

For any researcher, the amount of publications is a very relevant indicator or metric of her productivity, at least in the standard way of evaluating scientific activity Thus, the time that the process of peer review goes against her need of showing results.This is why is so important to use and consider preprints, both from the side of researchers and from journals accepting them. The majority of journals are trying to be indexed in data bases and rankings that add to the prestige and quality of them. But it depends on their editorial decisions to make preprints part of the peer review process, and from academic institutions to allow them as results of research. But the times to get an answer and a result in the publishing process are insane. This needs to be adressed by universities, libraries, research centers and institutions that give the money and funding for research

Besides times, one the problems for publishing something is to choose the Journal to which submit it. While it may seem simple, there are thousands of journals, at least in fields such as humanities, communication, social sciences, or technology social studies. Of course, this doesn’t happen in the natural sciences or physics area, where is clear that you should send something to Nature, Science; or to Cell if you are a biologist. But, again, atomization and hyperspecialization of scientific disciplines makes the offer huge. There are even editorial managers that ask money for doing that job for you, meaning, you pay and submit the paper to a “editorial group”, that would locate it in some Journal for review. I’ve seen this happening in the engineering and logistics field. Each Journal has specific guidelines, formatting, templates, rules, and evaluation criteria. For real, if you hate burocracy, you will hate this process. Therefore, one of the benefits of preprints, as it is mentioned in this video from the librarians for McGill University, from Canada es that “preprints can help you to find your community”. At least, your scientific community, in terms of specialists of a field or subfield Socarxiv (social sciences) Bioarxiv (life sciences, biology, biotechnology), Arxiv (computer science)

But this is not so simple, as it requieres a permission form journals so you can upload your preliminary version to a preprint server BEFORE it is published For this, you need to know at least that it will be published in the next Issue (which can be out in 6 months/1year), or that it was approved. So, this preprints trend is huge, and I don’t think it’s being adressed in Argentina or in Latin America from the perspective of universities, editorials and research institutions training. They need to include a policy (in terms of editorial and publisher guidelines), for preprints to be part of the academic activity.

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