The process for publishing scientific information has followed the same course — write up results, go through peer-review and eventually publish — for hundreds of years. But now, a group of biologists has started to upload papers directly to an open-access preprint site known as bioRxiv. bioRxiv (pronounced “bio-archive”) is a free online archive and distribution service for unpublished preprints in the life sciences. It is operated by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a not-for-profit research and educational institution.
By posting preprints on bioRxiv, authors are able to make their findings immediately available to the scientific community and receive feedback on draft manuscripts before they are submitted to journals. To share notice of their preprints, many have begin using the hashtag #ASAPbio, which has become “a newly coined rallying cry of a cadre of biologists who say they want to speed science by making a key change in the way it is published,” The New York Times’ Amy Harmon reports.
Meanwhile, in response to the rapid spread of Zika virus across Central and South America, The Guardian’s Stephen Curry explained, “a consortium of research funders, institutes and publishers have committed to sharing data and results relevant to the crisis ‘as rapidly and openly as possible.’”
A recent meeting of Accelerating Science and Publication in Biology (ASAPbio) echoed “the spirit of the Zika initiative in drawing attention to the value of preprints in accelerating and widening access to the research literature. Preprints are an established avenue of publication in physics, mathematics and computer science and have the advantage that they can be married with the existing journal infrastructure. Better yet, they could be integrated into new journal-based experiments in open peer review, as at F1000 Research, or used to seed more fundamental reforms such as the post-publication review mechanism proposed by Michael Eisen and Lesley Vosshall that is entirely separated from journals,” Curry said.
bioRxiv accepts preprints of articles covering all aspects of research in the life sciences. When posting an article, the author assigns it to one of 26 categories:
Articles in the physical sciences, mathematics or social sciences can also be posted on bioRxiv if they have direct relevance to the life sciences. Otherwise, articles in areas that are not relevant to life sciences can instead be posted on servers such as arXiv, which bioRxiv is intended to complement.
As explained on the bioRxiv site, articles are not peer-reviewed, edited or typeset before being posted online. However, all articles undergo a basic screening process for offensive and/or non-scientific content and are checked for plagiarism. No endorsement of an article’s methods, assumptions, conclusions or scientific quality is implied by its appearance in bioRxiv. An article may be posted prior to, or concurrently with, submission to a journal but should not be posted if it has already been published. In addition, authors may submit a revised version of an article to bioRxiv at any time (prior to publication in a journal). However, once posted on bioRxiv, articles are citable and, therefore, cannot be removed.
The bioRxiv advisory board’s impressive roster currently includes
- Anurag Acharya (Google)
- Rick Anderson (University of Utah)
- Stefano Bertuzzi (American Society for Microbiology)
- Jonathan Eisen (UC Davis)
- Paul Ginsparg (Cornell and arXiv)
- Eric Green (Bethesda)
- Hopi Hoekstra (Harvard)
- Leonid Kruglyak (UCLA and HHMI)
- Frank Norman (Francis Crick Institute)
- Bernd Pulverer (EMBO)
- John Sack (Stanford)
- Sandra Schmid (UT Southwestern)
- Pamela Silver (Harvard)
- Eric Topol (Scripps Research Institute)
- Leslie Vosshall (Rockefeller University)
- Fiona Watt (King’s College London)
- Mike Wigler (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory)
It’s a bit too soon to say where the preprint movement will lead, but any incentive for researchers to publish rapidly and openly is a positive one for today’s scientific publishing.
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