The use of preprints (a research paper made publicly available before publication in a peer reviewed journal) is on the rise in the biomedical field. In an article in The Scholarly Kitchen, David Crotty asks whether preprints should be cited in the same way as articles published in a peer reviewed journal. While discussing the pros and cons of using preprints, the author recognises the need for clear citation guidelines. He concludes that publishers will need to play an active role in establishing a broadly accepted standard to “preserve quality, transparency and trustworthiness of scholarly literature”.
A clear advantage of using preprints is the speedy dissemination of results. Richard Server from bioRxiv adds that books, editorials and websites, which have not been peer reviewed, are already routinely included in reference lists. The main disadvantage of citing preprints is that any claim made in a preprint has not been verified by peer review; a distinction that some feel should be made clear when a preprint is cited. Most likely preprints will start appearing more often in reference lists and therefore it will be crucial to ensure any citation of a preprint can be clearly identified in the text and reference list to maintain transparency for the reader.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has developed a document discussing the use of preprints to report interim results from grants and the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) is reportedly developing best practice guidance for preprints.
Summary by Lobke Starr-Vaanholt, PhD
Dr. Lobke Starr-Vaanholt is a biomedical scientist with a passion for science communication. Contact Lobke: LobkeStarr@gmail.com