Preprint

In the context of academic publishing, a preprint refers to a version of a research or scientific paper that is shared publicly before it has undergone formal peer review and publication in a medical or scientific journal. The advantage is the preprints allow researchers to share their findings with the academic community and the public quickly, facilitating the dissemination of new knowledge before the formal peer review process. The normal peer review and publication process can takes up to months or years to complete. The preprint process has gained increased popularity in recent years due to their ability to accelerate the exchange of knowledge and foster collaboration among researchers.

Preprints are typically hosted on preprint servers, which are online platforms specifically designed to host and distribute early-stage research papers. All preprints typically receives a digital object identifier (DOI) when they are published and they are indexed by places like Altmetric and Google Scholar.

Advantages of Preprint:

  • Others can read the manuscript before the final version of it is published, having access to the work much quicker than wait for the peer review and publication process.
  • Other researchers can offer feedback to help improve the manuscript prior to the more formal journal peer review process.
  • As the work is publicly available to others, they can cite and build upon that research more quickly.

Disadvantages of Preprint:

  • There may be issues with the research methods, data and conclusions in the publication leading to poor quality papers being distributed. Subsequent peer review can result in the withdraw or non-publication of the paper.
  • Some journals do not allow the subsequent publication in their journal a paper that has been released on a preprint server first.

Preprint servers:
medRxiv (pronounced “med-archive”) is the biggest medical research prerpint server.
Research Square is also commonly used and does publish a lot of foot and lower limb preprints.

Research Square attaches these warnings to all papers published on their preprint server:

This is a preprint; it has not been peer reviewed by a journal.
A preprint is a preliminary version of a manuscript that has not completed peer review at a journal. Research Square does not conduct peer review prior to posting preprints. The posting of a preprint on this server should not be interpreted as an endorsement of its validity or suitability for dissemination as established information or for guiding clinical practice.

and

Preprints are preliminary reports that have not undergone peer review.
They should not be considered conclusive, used to inform clinical practice, or referenced by the media as validated information

Commentary:
Preprint became important during the COVID-19 pandemic in which research could be made more rapidly available for others to implement and build on, but also led to a large number of poor quality or even fraudulent publications that subsequently failed peer review being disseminated. For example a large number of preprint papers on the use of ivermectin for treating COVID-19 were published on preprint servers. Most of those that showed ivermectin worked were either subsequently withdrawn, failed the subsequent peer review process or were shown to be fraudulent.

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