A PeerJ PrePrint – so just what is that exactly?

c04bd282-3a96-11e5-9a86-00738eaf5a1aEver looked at the PeerJ website and wondered what a PrePrint is? Or noticed your colleagues have published a PrePrint with PeerJ and wondered about the difference between a PrePrint and a peer-reviewed article? Well wonder no more – we are here to demystify the process.

In a nutshell a PeerJ PrePrint is a draft of an article that has not yet been peer reviewed for formal publication. Authors can submit a draft, incomplete, or final versions of articles they are working to PeerJ PrePrints for free. PrePrints can be approved by Editorial staff and published in 24 hours of submission – which means authors are able to get their research out quickly and openly to the world.

Sometimes, other publishers use the term ‘preprint’ for their “publish ahead of print” articles (i.e. articles that have been formally accepted and are being shown online before they have gone through typesetting), however this is not the most common use of the term. A good description and definition of ‘preprints’ can be read at wikipedia.

One of the main benefits of publishing a PrePrint is that authors establish precedent – an important benefit when being the first to publish a discovery is critical. As PeerJ PrePrints are open for all to read through CC-BY licensing, authors are able to disseminate their work widely; solicit feedback; and then work on revisions of their manuscript. Not all preprint venues are fully open-access (some allow other licenses that restrict reuse) – in contrast, PeerJ PrePrints is fully CC-BY meaning you don’t need to worry about sharing or reusing preprint articles you find.

All preprints can be versioned by the authors (as their drafts evolve); they are assigned unique DOIs; they are archived in industry standard locations; they can receive open feedback from readers; and they measure a range of ‘alt-metrics (such as usage, tweets, referral sources etc). To read more about the benefits of publishing a preprint from an author’s perspective Stephen Curry’s blog post published today in The Guardian extolls some of the virtues of publishing research this way.

Submission to a PeerJ journal is not a requirement of publication in PeerJ PrePrints, and authors are at liberty to publish their preprints wherever they want. However, if they wish, then authors can easily submit their PrePrint manuscript to either of the PeerJ journals for a formal peer review process (PeerJ – a journal covering life sciences and medicine, or PeerJ Computer Science – a journal covering all areas of computer science). Once in peer-review, if feedback has been left on the preprint, then the Academic Editor handling the review process is made aware of this feedback and can (if they choose) use it as additional review input. If a preprint ends up going through peer-review and being published as a journal article then both the pre-print and the journal article will prominently ‘point’ to each other.

We believe that by offering PeerJ PrePrints as a venue for rapid communication and early findings everyone benefits. Scientists can ensure their work is disseminated quickly and widely, whilst gaining valuable feedback on their findings. This in turn establishes precedent for authors who know that their work is the first to be published, and allows for revisions to be made on this work prior to entering a full peer-review process. Readers get to know all about the latest discoveries, and even contribute with feedback on a PrePrint article if they wish.

We hope we’ve helped to demystify the process of PeerJ PrePrints and so just to recap:

  • A PeerJ PrePrint is a draft of an article not yet peer reviewed
  • Authors can submit PeerJ PrePrints for FREE
  • PrePrints can be published within 24 hours of submission
  • Authors establish precedent via rapid publication
  • Authors can solicit feedback and make revisions
  • PrePrints show a range of alt-metrics
  • PeerJ PrePrints are open for all to read through CC-BY licensing
  • Although not compulsory, authors of PeerJ PrePrints can choose to submit their PrePrint manuscript into either PeerJ or PeerJ Computer Science (provided they are in scope)
  • Everyone benefits!

If you’d like join thousands of authors who have already submitted their research as a PeerJ PrePrint why not submit your next article today?

(Update, 9/11/15 – also see some additional preprint posts made this week by Liz Martin-Silverstone (@gimpasaura) – “Preprints in science” ; Tim Gowers – “Discrete Analysis — an arXiv overlay journal” ; and Mike Taylor (@MikeTaylor) – A “special issue” for SVPCA 2015 proceedings )

(Update, 9/28/15 – for those people concerned that their journal of choice won’t consider their submission if it has appeared as a preprint, this wikipedia page has a list of the publishers and journals which have no problems with this. The list includes all journals published by Springer, Nature, Cambridge University Press, most of Elsevier, most of Oxford University Press etc.)

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  • Mark

    1. What happens if the paper is rejected for publication in PeerJ or another journal? Does the PrePrint remain published?
    2. If the PrePrint is later published in a peer-reviewed journal do both versions remain published and accessible?
    3. If the PrePrint is substantially improved or corrected when published, then how do we minimise the danger that some readers will only read and cite the PrePrint and overlook the improved peer-reviewed version?

  • Mark

    1. What happens if the paper is rejected for
    publication in PeerJ or another journal? Does the PrePrint remain published?

    2. If the PrePrint is later published in a peer-reviewed journal do both versions remain published and accessible?

    3. If the PrePrint is substantially improved or corrected when published, then how do we minimise the danger that some readers will only read and cite the PrePrint and overlook the improved peer-reviewed version?

    • John Bruno

      Answers: 1) yes it remains published. 2) yes. 3) Perhaps a note could be added to the pre-print with a link to the published paper?

    • Thanks Mark, and thanks to John (as a prior preprint author) for also chipping in – all John’s answers were correct. To confirm:

      (1) Yes it remains published.

      For (2) and (3):

      Yes both versions remain.

      If the later version was published by PeerJ then the pre-print automatically points to the peer-reviewed version with a prominent notice about this fact at the top of the HTML page. For a random example, see:https://peerj.com/preprints/220/. In addition, if you look at the PDF, a cover sheet has been added stating this same fact and that readers should cite the peer-reviewed version etc (see: https://peerj.com/preprints/220.pdf)

      If the later version was published by another journal then we are able to add a note to the top of an article at the request of the authors (see an example of this at https://peerj.com/preprints/1123/) and / or anyone can update the preprint with a note to this effect via our “Add Link” functionality. For an example of ‘adding a link’, the authors added this information: https://peerj.com/links/1767/ to their preprint at https://peerj.com/preprints/798/

  • Jane

    How do non-PeerJ journals view preprints?
    Most journals seem to require that submitted manuscripts have not been published or submitted elsewhere. It seems that preprints are exactly that.
    I really like the idea of preprints but wouldn’t want to jeopardise the chances of my work being published elsewhere.

    • Actually, you may be surprised but probably the majority of journals are now completely fine with this concept. For a partial list of those publishers which have no issue with pre-prints see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_academic_journals_by_preprint_policy As you can see, this includes all of Springer, Nature, Cambridge University Press, most of Elsevier, most of Oxford University Press etc.