John Bruno on his PrePrint Experiences at PeerJ

PrePrints continue to increase in popularity among academics, with a number of recent blog posts highlighting their utility (from ourselves, Stephen Curry, Liz Martin-Silverstone, Tim Gowers and Mike Taylor (twice)). Given this level of interest, we thought it would be helpful to ask some of the authors of PeerJ PrePrints about their reasons for publishing their work in this way.

This is the second post in our series of guest blog posts highlighting PeerJ PrePrint authors and for this post we spoke to John Bruno. Professor Bruno is an Academic Editor with PeerJ and has published 6 articles in PeerJ PrePrints.


Can you tell our readers a little bit about your research area?

I am a marine ecologist and Professor in the Department of Biology at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My research is focused on marine biodiversity and macroecology, coral reef ecology and conservation, and the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems. My lab group primarily works in the Caribbean – including  Belize, the Bahamas, and Cuba – but we also work in coastal North Carolina and Ecuador on applied wetland projects and in shallow subtidal habitats in the Galapagos Islands.

Why did you decide to submit the draft of your article(s) to PeerJ PrePrints?

Simply to get our results and ideas out there more quickly. Generally, it takes a year or three to get your work published in a peer-reviewed journal, even after you’ve done the science and written and edited the manuscript. That is insane. This is in part due to the legendarily slow peer review process and also to your manuscript getting bounced from one journal to another. But some journals take many, many months to publish even after the manuscript is accepted.

What are the benefits to you personally of publishing your work as a PeerJ PrePrint prior to any formal peer review process?

Again, to me the main benefit is speed.  In theory, you could get feedback from people that could improve the manuscript before it goes to peer review, but Ive never experienced that.   I think the next time I publish a pre-print, I will use social media to make my colleagues more aware of it.

What would you say to anyone who had any doubts about publishing their draft article as a PeerJ PrePrint first?

Well, I think a lot of people are afraid of their ideas getting scooped, i.e., before formal peer-reviewed publication. My view is preprints can prevent that from happening – giving you priority more rapidly. Others are so beholden to formal peer review they see preprints as a bit of a sacrilege. Honestly, I don’t think preprints (and open access, open peer review, etc.) are for everybody. Scientists are obviously highly opinionated about everything and a lot of colleagues still get shocked and upset when papers get discussed on blogs, post publication.  That seems to be changing and scientific publication is clearly in flux. But I have no idea how soon preprints will become widely adopted in the life sciences.

I do think one use for preprint outlets is as a place to publish marginal science, i.e., science that will have little impact, but that you still want to get out there. Like everybody else, Ive become very concerned about the rapid growth in papers being submitted and needing to be peer reviewed.  Journals like PeerJ and PLOS One that do not use novelty or impact as a publication criterion (which I support) are obviously adding to that firehose that is flooding the peer reviewing system.  I wonder if a partial solution is for us to only submit our best work for peer review and put the other stuff into preprints.  Ive actually “published” a few things as preprints (e.g., at FigShare) that I have no intention of sending to peer review.

We thank Professor Bruno for this guest post and we encourage you to submit the next article you are working on to PeerJ PrePrints.

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