To Preprint or Not to Preprint: A Global Researcher Survey

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Open science is receiving widespread attention globally, and preprinting offers an important way to implement open science practices in scholarly publishing. To develop a systematic understanding of researchers’ adoption of and attitudes toward preprinting, we conducted a survey of authors of research papers published in 2021 and early 2022. Our survey results show that the US and Europe lead the way in the adoption of preprinting. US and European respondents reported a higher familiarity with and a stronger commitment to preprinting than their colleagues elsewhere in the world. The adoption of preprinting is much stronger in physics and astronomy as well as mathematics and computer science than in other research areas. Respondents identified free accessibility of preprints and acceleration of research communication as the most important benefits of preprinting. Low reliability and credibility of preprints, sharing results before peer review and premature media coverage are the most significant concerns about preprinting, emphasized in particular by respondents in the life and health sciences. According to respondents, the most crucial strategies to encourage preprinting are integrating preprinting into journal submission workflows and providing recognition for posting preprints.

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  1. This Zenodo record is a permanently preserved version of a PREreview. You can view the complete PREreview at

    This review reflects comments and contributions from Melissa Chim, Nicolás Hinrichs, Allie Tatarian, Ashley Farley, Yueh Cho, and Stephen Gabrielson. Review synthesized by Stephen Gabrielson. 

    Rong and Waltman undertoook a global survey of authors who published between 2021 and early 2022 to capture their thoughts and behaviors regarding preprinting. 

    Major comments:

    • We do not have any major comments regarding this preprint

    Minor comments:

    • Preprinting is presented as both protective of scooping and associated with a risk of scooping; I think within the growing practice this is not just unresolved, but a crucial topic that abounds in conversations. It should therefore be addressed explicitly if contradictory claims are already being reported.

    • +1 to above. There are a few different topics that are viewed as both benefit and harm by respondents, such as establishing priority vs getting scooped, accelerating research communication vs premature media coverage, and more citations/showing progress for grants/jobs vs lack of recognition. Acknowledging or expounding upon these contradictions could add to the impact of this paper.

    • I agree with the previous comments of the dichotomy of risks and benefits. There is a lot to potentially unpack here and is most likely a suggestion for a future study. I would have loved to see the survey include more about citing preprints. I appreciate that it was highlighted that the survey was inspired by previous surveys on preprints. However, to better track perspectives and behaviors over time it could be better to use the same survey instrument. And if the previous surveys had gaps that needed to be addressed it would be useful to describe those gaps. I appreciate that a more global perspective was taken, as research is truly a global enterprise. Was the response rate higher in Europe due to more & stronger OA/OS policies? This could motivate the reason for responding. The career stage data makes sense and is interesting to me. A potential limitation that would be worth mentioning is that survey respondents were picked by being a published author. I would assume that this would negate researchers who haven't published yet or often. It was good to see common assumptions/experiences of preprinting in certain disciplines be confirmed with data. 

    • In section 2.1, I appreciate the space savings in referencing the survey form, but having already described its parts, albeit it having only 10 questions on preprinting, I think it would have been better to include them here.

    • In section 2.2, I believe the authors assume that "deduplicated" is a known term? I'd appreciate having it explained here.

    • In section 3.1, half of the survey participants reported learning about preprinting from reading preprints. I found this very interesting and wonder if preprints will play a bigger role in coursework/formal training.

    • In section 3.1 under "Experience with posting preprints", the authors refer to whether ResearchGate is a preprint server. Some readers will likely not be familiar with this debate. I would either drop this parenthetical or expand upon this idea. ResearchGate is not included in any preprint server list I have seen in the last several years. You can include a preprint in your ResearchGate profile, but the preprint is already submitted to a preprint server to get a DOI. If this is the case, can we consider ResearchGate a preprint server?

    • In section 3.1 under "Experience with posting preprints", the authors note that 15% of participants had posted their work as a preprint after it had been accepted by a journal. I didn't think that many journals allow for this. Or are authors doing this regardless of journal policies? I suppose they could be aligned with journal policies, but I would assume that those are already OA publications. The term postprint is typically defined as the accepted, peer-reviewed version of a manuscript submitted to a journal. I would consider postprints to be a separate, distinct research output.

    • In section 3.1 under "Willingness to post preprints", I am surprised that COVID-19 pandemic did not cause a major shift in preprinting for the medical and health sciences. It would be interesting to see COVID-19-related topics compared to others in medical and health sciences subject.

    • I found the survey responses in section 3.1 under "Benefits of preprinting" to be interesting. Open science is being framed very closely with citizen science in niches such as digital humanities, etc.

    • I really like figures 8-10, but I'm worried they won't be legible to colorblind readers. A yellow-blue, magenta-green, or red-white gradient would be more accessible. Same concerns for the other figures as well.

    • In section 3.1 under "Concerns about preprinting", I think I know what "premature media coverage" means but I'm not sure I completely get it. Does it have to do with journalists reporting on a non-peer-reviewed item? Or is it more about announcing something too soon? Or does it potentially take away excitement for the final version of record? I feel like there is a lot to unpack here.

    • Section 3.1 on "Concerns about preprinting" is a great section on attitudes toward preprints. In regard to the respondents concern around self-plagiarism with journal submission, I don't know whether the author's experiences are typical or not. The plagiarism check is part of the initial check for quality of the received manuscript. Reviewers are unlikely to check for plagiarism.

    • In section 3.1 under "Encouraging preprinting", the idea of not encouraging or opposing preprinting due to lack of peer review and low credibility of preprints is an interesting dynamic. What harm is being made? The same article could be published somewhere and may be found to be unsubstantiated post publication.

    • In section 4.1, I would like to see a discussion about whether these differences between research areas in the preprinting adoption are due to how dominance of the major journals in respective area.

    • In section 4.2, I find "integrating preprinting in journal submission workflows" to be an interesting recommendation that needs more detail. If most authors are publishing in the top 5 commercial publishers and the preprints are submitted through their workflows this could become an issue. One of the strengths of preprint servers now are that they are journal agnostic and independent from publisher business models. We should protect this. From my perspective, seeing this as a common response means that researchers have a hard time thinking past the concept of a journal. Instead, we are just layering on complexities while still trudging through the traditional publishing process. In this scenario the benefits become more limited.

    • Also in section 4.2, would it be possible to include preprints in tenure portfolios as part of the second recommendation?

    • Also in section 4.2, I'm not sure if these recommendations are ordered in terms of importance, but the third recommendation on "Developing new approaches for quality assurance and peer review of preprint" would be my number one.

    • Also in section 4.2, these guidelines can help researchers eliminate their doubts on scooping. It could also be an opportunity to include librarians for providing education on citation practices and copyright issues.

    • The data availability section should also include a direct link to the data:

    Comments on reporting:

    • Very much appreciated the availability of the data and the survey instrument. It was quite easy to access and assess. 

    Suggestions for future studies:

    • I think there's an opportunity for future studies on how the Chinese respondents' experiences differed from those in the rest of the world (e.g. 58% knew about preprints through submitting to a journal). Another opportunity may be to explore the role of librarians in promoting preprints in higher education institutions, and how it can be incorporated into formal training. 

    • +1 to the above comment, plus generally delving into why differences are seen in different parts of the world. There are a few potential avenues for this - are preprints less beneficial/more risky in some parts of the world or for some types of labs? Are preprints simply more well-advertised in the US? 

    • It would be interesting to map the survey results by region to the preprinting encouragement or requirement from funders/institutions in that region.

    • I agree with doing research on why the differences exist. It would be interesting to know what determines the preference of a particular preprint server by users in a particular region and if researchers prefer preprint servers with a broader scope as compared to those for specific research areas.

    • The overrepresentation of senior researchers could be overcome by sending survey invitations to the first authors, who may not make a decision to preprinting their manuscript, but have discussions about it with the corresponding author.

    Competing interests

    The author declares that they have no competing interests.

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