The peer review process is an important part of publishing scientific work, but it is not perfect. Work can be rejected by peer-reviewed journals simply because the research isn’t deemed important enough, while important scientific discoveries can be delayed from being announced to the world because of bottlenecks in the peer review process.
Preprint servers are one potential answer to this, and they are growing more important in an increasingly digital world. Preprint servers allow researchers to upload their preliminary findings and share them freely with other scientists before the work has gone through peer review.
Darla Henderson, Assistant Director and Publisher of Open Access Programs at ACS Publications, was recently interviewed on the Digital Science podcast about the role preprints play in chemistry today. Henderson has spent much of her career dealing with the publishing and access of information in the field of chemistry. She has been with ACS since 2008 and currently leads open access initiatives for the society.
Preprint servers are important because they make it easier to share information, Henderson said. Authors put in a great deal of research before they release anything they find, and preprints are part of that process.
“Preprints provide transparency. They show what it is that the author has done on his own and is ready to share. They also speed up the process by allowing the posting and the showing of findings earlier, and hopefully will lead to a more complex picture of the scientific process,” she told host Cameron Shepherd.
Open access journals are another way to show more of the scientific process by allowing the scientific community full access to the completed work. She said this could increase the visibility of the work, and help to increase understanding of science.
Earlier this year, ACS, with initial strategic input from the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), the German Chemical Society (GDCh) and other not-for-profit organizations, launched an open access preprint server for the chemistry community called ChemRxiv. It serves as a hub for preliminary work that has not been peer reviewed. ACS manages ChemRxiv on behalf of the chemistry community. ChemRxiv is powered by Figshare, an online digital repository for academic research.
“Our selection of Figshare was based on the fact that we felt that they offered a future solution that would enable scientists to have the broadest tool for communication,” Henderson said. “Figshare allows a large variety of file types to be submitted by the author, to be preserved through the triage process, and then be presented to the user in a viewer and for download of the original files at the end stage.”
The purpose of preprint servers like ChemRxiv is to speed up the researcher’s workflow and facilitate greater communication of findings within the scientific community, she adds.