Preprints have become an increasingly popular way for researchers to make their work immediately available to the scientific community. Non-peer-reviewed articles can be uploaded to platforms such as arXiv, bioRxiv and PeerJ, where they become citable and open to comments and reviews by others. A recent report in TheScientist describes how these platforms are now being used to source papers for publication in traditional peer-reviewed journals.
TheScientist explains that journals such as PLOS Genetics and Genome Biology have chosen to employ ‘preprint editors’ who search preprint servers for outstanding content and solicit potential manuscripts. Authors are guaranteed peer review if they submit the manuscript to the journal. Primarily, preprint editors consider the quality of the science and the suitability of the topic, but they also factor in the number of comments and reviews an article receives.
There is a concern that this approach may lead to selection bias. However, preprint editors explain that they are aware of this risk and efforts are being made to reduce it. They also believe that, as this type of solicitation has been happening informally since the launch of the platforms, the move towards open solicitation will only increase the transparency of the process. Such approaches may become increasingly necessary due to the ever-evolving nature of scientific publishing in the digital age.