Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Michele Avissar-Whiting. Michele is the Editor in Chief at Research Square, a multidisciplinary preprint platform that launched at the end of 2018.
In my role, I often imagine what publishing looks like in a preprint-first world. It’s a world in which researchers are in full control of when and where their stories are shared; the pressure to disseminate findings is relieved, and we rely on the consensus of the world’s experts to understand their validity. It’s a world where we all have equal access to scholarly research, one in which we all face more content than we know what to do with and, thus, tools for filtration and curation are modes of survival. It’s also a world in which the Mertonian norms are reified to the extent that those who would circumvent the basic ethics of scientific conduct may find it more difficult to thrive. That last point is the one I want to elaborate on here; it has emerged a number of times when I haven’t been looking for it.
A great reflection about how pre-print servers can expose unethical conduct far faster than publication in regular titles. Also see https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/elisabeth-bik-faces-legal-action-after-criticizing-studies-68831
In her recent Scholarly Kitchen post, Leslie McIntosh suggests that some authors exploit preprint servers as cover for ethically dubious behavior. But these platforms, in their inherent transparency, make terrible hiding places. Rather than being a venue for misconduct, preprint servers — especially those closely tied to publishers — have the potential to help reveal wrongdoings that have found cover for years in the opaque practices dominating scholarly publishing. Let me explain by way of real-world examples.