What Are Preprints?

In a nutshell, preprints are early versions of research that are not peer-reviewed and report on either ongoing research or research that is complete. They encourage early reporting of research that can be openly discussed by the scientific community and improved before being published as a final article in a peer-reviewed journal. Because they can also be cited, they are very useful.

Unlike standard academic publications, these can be updated when new information is made available, so long as the content hasn’t been published. These updates appear as new versions. There are some significant benefits to academics and researchers by having preprints readily available and open access, allowing quick access to information to help progress science. In addition, they are reliable. The question of can preprints be cited is something that comes up often (see below).

Sometimes the term means different things to different people. For example, it might mean a “version of a scholarly article prior to publication” to some. But not all preprints wind up published as peer reviewed articles.

Accepted by Clarivate

Because of their importance within scientific communication, they’ve been accepted by Clarivate Web of Science. This has only helped the visibility of preprints. Some places you can find preprints are,, and Other places where you can view preprints include Crossref, Google Scholar, Scilit and more. As preprints continue to appear in more and more places, this makes research more visible and easily cited. A broader audience of readers and commenters can also help to improve the foundational work.

Because feedback can be provided readily, the rate at which science and research accelerate are a major benefit to preprints.

A brief history

The USA National Institutes of Health launched a program called Information Exchange Groups back in 1961. This program ended in 1967. This was the first sort of iteration of what became preprints. Later, in 1991, a repository for physics, computer science, and mathematics was created. This was called “e-prints” and, from then, their growth continued. Today, there are many services and platforms that are forming around preprints, much to the benefit of everyone. was founded in 2016.


Preprints have a number of benefits and these have incentivized authors to contribute to this global platform. Some of these are more centred on the academics who publish them, while others are in service to the research community as a whole. Here we’ll go over three examples of benefits that preprints have, and how they are of use to different people and institutions.

  • They’re citeable
  • You can receive feedback on them
  • Preprints are multidisciplinary

Preprints are citable

Can preprints be citable? The answer is yes! One of the most important features of preprints is that they are citable. Every preprint is registered and has a unique digital object identifier (DOI) issued by Crossref. They are instantly citable and provides a permanent link for the article, even if the URL on the platform changes. If a new versions of the preprint is created (due to updates or changes) it will receive a different DOI. This ensures that the most up to date version of your preprint is available for other authors to read, cite, and leave feedback on.

You can receive feedback on them

Unlike standard academic manuscripts, where methods of feedback are a bit archaic and largely centre on “email and hope your feedback isn’t lost in a spam folder”, preprints can be commented on. Through the preprint system, you can receive both public and private feedback on your work, helping you to find different avenues you may not have considered, or to correct any issues that may exist.

Preprints are multidisciplinary

Like many journals, they are multidisciplinary. Everything from the Arts and Humanities to Biology and Tech is represented. Because they can be cited, they have broad applicability in many multidisciplinary journals as well.

Covid and preprints

Preprints have been around for a while now. They have been a tool used by researchers and academics to share research in its early stages. But it was research during the COVID-19 pandemic that really saw a great benefit.

Because of the time it takes to publish academic work, preprints are a fast alternative to get preliminary research out into the world. This has had pros and cons. On the one hand, this made data available to interested parties very quickly. This helped the dissemination of research. It helped during the COVID-19 pandemic in particular as there was a great need for research as it became available. But there was also the additional benefit of being able to disseminate that information quickly and effectively.

Pros and cons

While there are many benefits, its important to acknowledge some of the downsides. While we will be going into depth on the pros and cons in an article, it bears mentioning that some of these have been significant. In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, one major issue that has arisen has been the lack of clarity for the average person of what they are and how they should be interpreted.

Preprints do not undergo lengthy peer review processes that can take months and, in some cases, even years. They are screened generally for basic ethical standards, such as plagiarism checks, ethical approval checks if they report human or animal studies, and once these are completed, the preprint is posted directly online. This enables authors to share their research globally and receive credit for their work.

In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, one major issue that has arisen has been the lack of clarity for the average person of what they are and how they should be interpreted. This has largely been a failure on the part of media organizations, who have not properly informed viewers of the difference between this type of research information and research that has been peer reviewed.

Future of preprints

The future is an exciting one. The growth they have seen in the last few years (in particular during the COVID-19 pandemic) has opened the eyes of many to their utility. But it has also highlighted some problems. Some of this is due to the fact that they “look” like they’re finished research.

In the future, while we expect to see more growth in this exciting medium, we also hope to see innovative ways to address some of the issues they have highlighted. In examining the pros and cons, we will be better equipped to effectively use them to the benefit of all in the future.

For more information about preprints, a useful FAQ, or even if you’re looking to submit, we refer the interested reader to the Multidisciplinary Preprints Platform. Here, you’ll be able to find more details about everything from how to submit to details about the advisory board.