Although physicists have been posting preprints for nearly 3 decades, many biologists have only just begun to widely share their unreviewed papers. The shift has been catalyzed, in part, by endorsements of preprint publishing from high-profile scientists, as well as the 2013 launch of the nonprofit bioRxiv by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York; bioRxiv now holds more than 15,000 papers. But in contrast to physics, where preprints took off without much fanfare or controversy, the leap into preprints is stirring strong passions in the hyper-competitive world of the life sciences.
- accelerate the pace of science—and improve its quality—by publicizing findings long before they reach journals,
- helping researchers get rapid feedback on their work
- giving a leg up to young researchers who don’t yet have many publications
- little difference between posting a preprint and presenting unpublished findings at a meeting, except that the preprint audience can be far larger
- competitors may steal their data or ideas, and rush to publish similar work.
- preprint servers will become a time sink, as scientists spend hours trying to sift through an immense mishmash of papers of various quality
- easy, rapid publication could foster preprint wars—in which the findings in one preprint are quickly attacked in another, sometimes within hours. Such online squabbles could leave the public bewildered and erode trust in scientists.
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