Worldwide survey of scientists suggests almost two-thirds are now positive about their use
More than two-thirds of researchers now view preprints as a “valued source of communication”, a share that was below half at the start of the pandemic, according to a global survey of scientists.
Before the pandemic, there was understandable trepidation about preprints. The lack of peer review meant there is the possibility that the research will be fake and so the output was probably flawed. We shared that hesitancy. But the pandemic showed how preprints could more quickly disseminate urgent knowledge and allow for rapid open and democratic review, much faster than the traditional scientific publication route. This Times Higher Education piece published in April 2022, reports research that indicates how the scientific community’s feelings about preprints have changed.
The exercise found that 67 per cent of respondents in 2021 agreed that preprints were a valued source, with 17 per cent strongly agreeing, up from 43 per cent the year before, including 7 per cent strongly agreeing. The share disagreeing with the statement almost halved, to 12 per cent.
Preprints quickly became an important way to disseminate research findings in the early days of the pandemic, further boosting use that had already been growing strongly before Covid struck.
The increasing acceptance of preprints has led to a growing debate in the academic community about whether they could become the main way to share findings, given their speed and free access, or whether peer-reviewed publications should remain central to the scientific process.
Of those responding to the survey who agreed that preprints were valuable, three-quarters referred to their free access and speed of dissemination as being key factors, while the major reason for people disagreeing was the lack of peer review, with 55 per cent citing this.