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Editorial Snapshot: An example of the growing importance of preprints

- G.A., Senior Editor

While the publication of peer-reviewed research findings remains the gold standard for distributing ideas in the academic community, the sharing of information prior to official publication has long been done by authors. Today, many authors publish preliminary versions of research manuscripts to online preprint servers that can be accessed by other interested researchers around the world.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, preprints have allowed essential discoveries and potential treatments to be shared at unprecedented speeds. As a result, large publishers and individual journals have begun to encourage authors to post preprints of their work prior to the submission and publication of their work in a peer-reviewed journal.

In consideration of the importance of preprints, the not-for-profit open access journal eLife has announced a plan to only review and publish submissions that have already been shared on a preprint server. While many journals encourage the practice of sharing via preprint, eLife’s plan establishes a much stronger “publish, then review” model.

In the past, some publishers were wary of preprints and discouraged or even prevented authors from sharing their work before publication. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, preprints are a valuable tool in the academic community and their use should be encouraged. Even once the COVID-19 pandemic has ended, the popularity of preprints can be expected to continue to grow and eLife is demonstrating how journals can proactively encourage this growth.

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