The pros and Cons of Preprints on yellow background

The Pros and Cons of Preprints

Preprints are drafts of scholarly articles and research papers that are made publicly available prior to peer review, meaning that researchers can get their work out quickly and receive feedback at a relatively early stage. There’s plenty more uses and benefits to them, including that they’re citable and open for comments from other researchers.

There are some limitations to preprints, however, including a lack of awareness among the general public and limited acceptance in academic journals and publication platforms.

Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of preprints here.

Preprints pros

·       A way for researchers to get results out quickly

Preprints are most useful for researchers. Researchers can share their results by publishing their initial drafts and receive feedback on their findings from other researchers across the world. This can be helpful because a wider pool of researchers providing feedback means that any flaws in research are more likely to be noticed before the publication of full research papers.

Feedback can come in other forms, including as recommendations for new research directions. As preprints are open to comments, they’re perfect for advancing fields in which preliminary results are key. And they might even strengthen the review process given that researchers are able to consider feedback on preprints from researchers across the globe.

·       Crediting innovative research

By making research visible before official publication, researchers with innovative ideas can be suitably credited. The process from finalizing a draft to publishing a peer-reviewed article can be lengthy. Because of this, preprints can help researchers to get results out quicker. This is especially useful if any major delays are experienced during the review process, or if similar research comes out before the publication of full research papers.

·       Preprints are citable 

Preprints receive their own digital object identifier (DOI), meaning that researchers can easily cite preprints. Publishers often provide “How to Cite” instructions for anybody looking to reference research from preprints. And because preprints are citable, academics can discuss information and results from preprints within their work.

·       Preprints are screened

Preprints  can come in various forms, including as reviews and case reports. And once preprints are submitted for publication, they are subject to certain checks. For example, at MDPI, preprints undergo a thorough series of checks to make sure they’re reliable. Preprints published through, an MDPI initiative, undergo a screening process that includes making sure that basic publication ethics are adhered to, conflicts of interest are disclosed by authors, and that “no harmful, provocative, controversial, or pseudoscientific statement” is included.

Preprints cons

·       Preprints reliability

Because preprints aren’t as established yet, it can be difficult to make clear that the information available in preprints isn’t verified in the same way as information in other research articles. As witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic, this can lead to problems during major health crises.

The pandemic illustrated both the pros and cons of preprints. Due to the novelty and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were looking to find out more about the science behind it. While preprints helped researchers to share data about the pandemic at a rapid pace, problems arose as many news outlets picked up on the information. The circulation of preliminary findings as facts meant conflicting information was delivered to the public. This led to issues such as misinformation and lack of trust in the science.

These issues can be solved by making clear that preprints haven’t been peer reviewed, and that the research in preprints is therefore less reliable than the information available in other academic publications. Defining and explaining the purpose of preprints are steps in the right direction.

·       Lack of acceptance and publication of full papers

Despite being about for around 30 years online, preprints only really took off during the COVID-19 pandemic, when fast-paced research became key. The rise in interest since then has led to considerations of the pros and cons of preprints. And they’re most often distributed over the internet as opposed to in the form of paper copies today, following the trend of most academic publications.

However, there is less space made for preprints across journals. Many publishers don’t accept preprints or have certain stipulations for the research published in preprints. For example, when publishing a preprint, researchers should be mindful that some journals prohibit the republication of research included in preprints. If you have any plans to publish your work with a certain journal, double check that you’ll still be able to do this once you’ve published your preprint.

Preprints at MDPI 

So, while preprints offer benefits such as efficiency and collaboration, there are still some issues that need to be worked on. We’ll hopefully see some of these issues resolved as we raise awareness about their functions and purpose.

If you’re interested in publishing your work as a preprint, or want to know more about the process, have a look at the Multidisciplinary Preprints Platform, an MDPI initiative. Here, you can learn more about publishing articles developed from preprints in MDPI journals.

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