A preprint is an original manuscript, commonly electronic, that an author published before or even after been reviewed by peers (or by other evaluation system), edited or designed for the publication for the editorial of an academic journal. In other words, a preprint is a document sent to an academic journal, but which has not reached the decision yet to be published, even though it could also be a document that has not been sent to any journal, published in a server of self-service. It is also important to comment, that preprints already existed since a long time ago, even before the apparition of Internet, since the end of the 50’s, they were printed and sent by e-mail to researchers and libraries, long time before peers reviewed them and published in a magazine.
In the version of self-file, each time more popular, the preprint is collocated by the author in a server of preprints, commonly thematic, by following public procedures. The preprint version could be even an advance or an incomplete version of the manuscript (even though the most common is a final version). Using this service the authors could ask for comments and add the suggestions to the manuscript that could be sent later on to the formal editorial process of the magazine. Some examples of the most known servers are: arXiv.org – http://arxiv.org/, ASAPbio – http://asapbio.org/, bioRxiv.org – http://biorxiv.org/, ChemRxiv – http://pubs.acs.org/meetingpreprints, and F1000Research – https://f1000research.com. Some of these servers also called repositories begin to offer the possibility of making deposits of the preprint, at the same time that it allows the option of sending the work directly to a journal for its revision per peers (as bioRxiv), given that the journal allows it.
Many journals, as Comunicar, have comprehended the possibilities and importances of this practices and publish, some months before, the articles in preprint that will be published in the next number. Comunicar journal, publishes in their articles when there will be available the preprints (see the next figure). Other journals as “RED. Revista de Educación a Distancia” and “Educational Technology & Society” continue publishing the articles even without format, as they are accepted by the reviewers, before the official date of the number. These practices are supported in studies that demonstrate that the anticipated publication of manuscripts contributes to create a science more transparent, quickly, visible and offers possibilities of receiving cites and feedback from the scientific community in an anticipated way before the definite publication of works.
In order to illustrate the benefits commented previously about preprints, it could be seen in the next figure the way in which the journal “Physical Review” obtains a higher number of cites months before being published an article:
In summary, the main benefits of using preprints are:
- Open Access in an immediate way to the article.
- To get more comments about their jobs for the part of colleagues before being published the manuscript.
- Preprints increase the quantity of downloads and consequently the visibility of authors, their works and, possibly the citations.
- Reduces in an important way the delay in the publication of articles that causes great frustrations and complaints in priority.
On the other hand, some researchers consider a postprint to the final version of the manuscript accepted by the editor, once finished the process of peer review, in which the author has incorporated the changes or corrections as a result of the revision. However, many investigators agree that a postprint is the publication of an article that has already been published in a journal including all the identification of the same. This practice is not always accepted for the editors, reason why it is necessary to take into account before publishing.
Similarly, there are journals as Comunicar, Profesorado and RED, that incentive to the authors to store their articles once published in academic social networks as ResearchGate and Academia.edu, where there could already be found millions of documents, both preprints as postprints, to disposition of researchers.
The generalized adoption of the preprints and even postprints, have consequences in the function of the peer evaluation (blind or open), converting it into a process more transparent and dynamic. Moreover, preprints can become a solution for the fact that a great part of the scientific literature is not accessible or open, broad and as fast as possible. Moreover, the role of scientific journals could change the process of the scientific communication and become in recognition stamps or reliable quality within the research area.
On January 19th, 2017 it was published a preprint in bioRxiv, the server of preprints of Cold Spring Harbor, which occurs all the time, but the interesting thing is the fact that the main author is affiliated to “Elsevier”, which is promisingly, given that Elsevier is one of the most restrictive editorials regarding to the publication of preprints/postprints.
To sum up, the regional initiative SciELO, pioneer of the publication in open access in Latin America since 1997, is also in the process of establishing a server of preprints, its object is to accelerate the publication process and increase its transparency, something that without doubt will be of great usefulness and an opportunity for the Ibero-American journals.