Preprints are a valid form of scientific communication




For over two decades, the Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science communities disseminate their manuscripts before peer review (known as preprints), as a complement to the publication of scientific articles according to the classical standards, in order to accelerate and consolidate the dissemination of knowledge for the benefits of research communities as well as for society more broadly. The server, for example, has greatly contributed to this phenomenon.

However, the use of preprints remains marginal in the Life Sciences, despite the recent introduction and progress of servers such as or PeerJ Preprints. In the beginning of 2016, the ASAPBio meeting (Accelerating Science and Publication in Biology) underlined the need to valorize preprints in the entire system of knowledge production: citation, evaluation, recruitment, promotion, etc. 

Consequently, the alliances AllEnvi and AvieSan, in order not to discourage a movement with potential benefits for scientific progress, declare that they recognize preprints as a valid form of scientific communication, especially for the results of basic science. Their production should thus be taken into account, in a specific manner, in the processes of hiring, evaluation and promotion of researchers as well as in the management of laboratories or in project evaluation. 

To be valid the preprint must be published, as well as its successive versions and its annexes if necessary (links to data, peers’ comments in the case of open review, etc.), on a community or institutional server that ensures the following services:

  1. Allocation of a unique digital identifier e.g. a DOI (digital object identifier);
  2. Open access (for readers with Internet access);
  3. Use of a format compatible with text and data mining;
  4. Following more generally the FAIR principles (Findable / Accessible / Interoperable / Reusable) of access to data and scientific knowledge.

In addition, the alliances and their members emphasize that:

  • Preprints and publications are two forms of scientific production; they must be considered separately in scientific dossiers;
  • The status of each preprint regarding the peer validation process must be made clear for everyone including readers less familiar with the academic practices;
  • The publication date of the preprint, which must therefore be certified, is a valid date of anteriority of the phenomenon it relates;
  • Publishing clinical and environmental studies as preprints should be conducted with the required caution due to their potential impact.

The alliances and their members encourage evaluation and funding agencies and committees to adopt a similar policy in the context of their respective missions, and to recognize preprints as individual and collective contributions to scientific progress. Adoption of such policies is becoming increasingly common internationally. Some examples of policies (from universities, funding agencies, etc.) are available on the ASAPBio web site. The alliances join the ASAPBio community to participate actively in defining the conditions of use of preprints and especially the specifications of the ecosystem and governance of preprint servers, preprint licensing, etc.

Les alliances and their members invite authors to ensure that their manuscripts can be reviewed by peers and eventually published in a scientific journal. Furthermore, scientific journals must commit to consider manuscripts previously disseminated as preprints as admissible material for submission. 

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