Are preprints important?

Justin Brown

A preprint is when you make a research article, or part of a research article, available for free either on a website you yourself own or by using one of the many preprint servers available. More and more people are using preprints to share their research before publication. Several reasons for this, apart from the open science part include faster dissemination of your article, ease of access for other researchers, more citations on services such as Google Scholar, and more chances for review.

Since preprints allow you to “publish”, or self-publish, your article without the lengthy process that most journals have, your research will have more time to gain traction in the community. Increased SEO and findability on Google Scholar can help more people to find and to read your soon-to-be-published research. This is another reason why these preprint servers can be so useful. They already have, or should already have, a good SEO history and authority on search engines, allowing for people to more easily find your article either through a search engine or directly on the preprint server.

Preprints also help your work to establish priority, which can be essential when others are potentially posting similar research in a similar timeframe. This allows you to get a timestamp on your work faster than publication in a journal, which could and often does delay publication.

There are advantages to keeping your preprint up or even uploading a ‘postprint’ after publication. Again, it is just another place that people can find and access your research, helping you to get citations and get your name out. Having a place where people can access your publication that isn’t behind a paywall can be extremely useful.

Many journals are no longer disallowing preprints before publications, so for the most part you don’t need to worry about that affecting your ability to still get published. Of course, make sure to check your journal’s guidelines regarding preprints beforehand, but the list of journals that allow or encourage preprints is growing.

Getting feedback and having people review your work is also an important step in getting your research published in a journal. Publishing a preprint of an article allows you to get the feedback you wouldn’t normally have access to, in addition to potentially finding people who wish to collaborate with you.

While a preprint is definitely not required, more and more researchers are turning to them for the added benefits they bring, not only to the individual but to the scientific community as a whole, getting more articles out there without the long publication process.


Written by Justin Brown