Rising Importance of Preprints for Open Access Funders

Despite there being many debates around the pros and cons, Open Access funders are recognising the importance of preprints and advocating for funded authors to publish them. In this article, we will cover what preprints are, their advantages and disadvantages, and changes in Open Access funder policies. Finally, we’ll also introduce you to MDPI’s own preprints server.

What are preprints?

A preprint is a version of a scholarly or scientific paper that is published before being submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. Publishing in this way is known as green Open Access. A preprint server is an online repository that hosts the publication of preprints, with common examples including arXiv, bioRxiv, and HAL.

Most preprints are given a digital object identifier (DOI) so that they can be easily searched for and cited in other research papers. Moreover, they are accepted by Clarivate Web of Science, and are searchable on databases/platforms like Crossref, Google Scholar, and Scilit.

Similarly, a postprint is an article that has been peer-reviewed in preparation for a journal and is then deposited in a repository. This can be sometimes done whilst the article is being formatted and prepared for publication in the journal. Postprints are sometimes referred to as eprints.

Always check with your publisher before submitting a pre- or postprint.

Why publish a preprint?

Publishing manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals often takes months or even years from the time of submission. This is because manuscripts are extensively reviewed, edited, and formatted for the journal.

For many, the importance of preprints stems from how quickly they can be circulated and feedback can be received. This helps authors gain quicker recognition for their work and allows others to build on it.

Accordingly, they align closely with the open science ethos of collaboration and the broad dissemination of research works.

Pros and cons

There is a debate around the value of preprints. Let’s explore some of the advantages and disadvantages.


  • A way for researchers to get their results out quickly.
  • Gain credit for innovative research.
  • Preprints are citable works.
  • Some repositories screen them before publication.

The main disadvantage of preprints is the lack of peer review, which can lead to unverified information spreading. This is furthered by the average person being less able to interpret them and their differences from peer-reviewed publications.

As such, the UNESCO Recommendations on Open Science states that preprints must be clearly distinguished from final peer-reviewed publications.

If you want to learn more about the pros and cons, we have an article exploring the topic in more detail.

What is Plan U?

In 2019, Plan U was proposed by the founders of the repository bioRxiv and biologists.

The statement proposes separating the publication of manuscripts from the process of evaluation and certification by journals. They argue that the time it takes for journals to publish papers hinders the progression of science, averaging at a year from submission to publication, therefore failing to realise the Internet’s potential to accelerate science.

The authors argue that preprints offer the most effective way of providing free, immediate access to research.

Further, they suggest that publishing more preprints will enable researchers to experiment with new peer review and research evaluation initiatives.

Changing Open Access funder requirements

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation adopted a new policy on Open Access publishing to take effect in 2025. The Foundation primarily funds health research and is a member of cOAlition S, the EU’s Open Access initiative.

As of 2025, the Foundation will no longer support the payment of article processing charges, which are common in Open Access journals, thus requiring its grantees to publish preprints of their work.

This marks a significant change in policy for a major funder and demonstrates the growing importance of preprints in research. The hope is that the new policy will save money and speed up the scientific process significantly.

The future of preprints

The EU published ‘Towards Responsible Publishing’ in 2023, which is a draft of future Open Access policies in their cOAlition S initiative. The statement mentions the aim to open the full range of outputs created during the research cycle and to give authors more freedom in their choice of journal.

This likely implies the publication of preprints during the process of writing the article, as multiple versions can be uploaded, and the author being able to publish their article freely in whatever journal they please.

If you want to learn more about the EU’s Open Access policy, visit our article on the topic.

Moreover, the Federation of American Scientists advocates for the ‘publish, then review’ model, which would involve publishing preprints and then reviewing them. They argue this would make scholarly publishing more rapid, rigorous, and cost-efficient.

What is preprints.org?

Launched in 2016, preprints.org is an MDPI initiative dedicated to making early versions of research outputs available. The service allows authors to share their work openly and rapidly.

Authors can receive comments and feedback and their work is immediately indexed by Google Scholar and other online databases and is citable via its DOI. The work will receive a CC BY 4.0 license, in which authors retain copyright and receive credit for their work whilst allowing anyone to read and use it. Also, article-level metrics allow authors to closely monitor the success and impact of their work.

Further, preprints.org is a multidisciplinary repository, so it hosts work on a range of topics and disciplines.

How preprints.org works

The process of publishing your work on preprints.org is as follows:

  1. Submission: Authors upload their manuscripts and supplementary files via the online submission system.
  2. Moderation: Editors carry out initial checks on content; decisions are made within 24 hours.
  3. Archival and publication online: After passing initial checks, they are made immediately available, citable, and open for comments.

The nature of preprints not being peer-reviewed does mean that some caution and responsibility are required when reusing them.

Rising importance of preprints

In summary, a preprint is a version of a scholarly or scientific paper that is published before being submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. They help open and speed up the scientific process, sharing results earlier and allowing others to build on them.

Because of this, funders are recognising the importance of preprints by introducing requirements to submit them as a way to achieve Open Access.

However, they are not yet peer-reviewed, meaning they are prone to being incorrect or not reproducible. As such, readers must keep in mind that they represent a view into the scientific process, not its end-product.

Preprints.org is MDPI’s own multidisciplinary repository that is dedicated to hosting early versions of scientific works. If you want to read or publish your own work, you can visit the website here.

We’re dedicated to giving you all the information you need to understand Open Access. Click here for our article, All You Need to Know About Open Access, which covers a range of topics that can help boost your understanding and also keep you up to date.