How to preprint properly: updated guidance from the ICMJE
- The ICMJE has published detailed guidance for journals and authors on the use of preprints, including choice of preprint server, citing preprints, and transparent reporting practices.
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) has recently updated its recommendations for reporting biomedical research to include a new section on preprints.
Preprints are becoming increasingly popular as a rapid means of communicating scientific advances, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. While speedy dissemination of results is an appealing feature of preprints in the fast-moving world of research, the absence of peer review may detract from the validity of findings reported in preprints. The ICMJE’s updated guidance aims to maximise the benefits of preprints and minimise the potential harms.
Preprints were briefly mentioned in the 2018 update of the ICMJE recommendations, however the latest document gives more detailed guidance for journals and authors on:
- journal policies – journals should describe their preprint policies in the Instructions for Authors, and authors should consult these before uploading their research to a preprint server
- choice of preprint archive – the ICMJE provides 6 essential characteristics authors should consider when choosing a preprint archive, including clear warning about the lack of peer review, commenting features, and withdrawal notices
- submitting preprints to peer-reviewed journals – authors should inform the journal about the existing preprint and update the preprint to signpost to the full article once published
- citing preprints – the word ‘preprint’ should appear both in the reference list and where the preprint is cited within the text.
We look forward to seeing authors and journals implement these recommendations in the coming months and hope the guidance can contribute to the consistent and transparent reporting of preprinted research.
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