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Scholarly Publishing

This guide provides information and resources on scholarly publishing related topics

About Preprint Servers

Most disciplines have built online repositories where scholars can share their preprints—working papers or early versions of scholarly or scientific papers that precede formal peer review. These preprint servers differ from institutional repositories like University of Houston's Institutional Repository in that they accept deposits from scholars at any institution.

Nonprofit preprint servers also differ from commercial services like ResearchGate and Academia.edu. The former are organized by nonprofit entities for the benefit of the research communities they server; the latter are social networking sites that have commercial purposes of selling user data. See "A Social Networking Site Is Not an Open Access Repository" from the University of California for more insight on this distinction.

Sharing Work through a Preprint Server

Why are researchers sharing their work on a preprint server prior to submitting the manuscript to a publisher?

  • Greater exposure: Manuscripts posted to preprint servers are indexed by Google Scholar, Google, and a broad range of academic search engines and indexing services, offering authors wide web accessibility to their works
  • Gain feedback from peers: Preprint servers encourage early peer review on new work, allowing authors to receive valuable feedback from others in their field and, in turn, increasing the possibility for future collaborations
  • To get discovered: many scholarly journals have editors who are dedicated to scouting for talent and recruit work from preprint servers (see, e.g. PLOS journals)
  • Greater security: All posted manuscripts to a preprint server are time stamped and receive a DOI before it might get published. These safeguard authors' works from "scooping" and plagiarism while allowing them to showcase their work online, on their CVs, in grant applications, etc.
  • It's free: many authors cannot afford the Article Processing Charges (APCs) often associated with publishing with an Open Access journal, but sharing your work on a preprint server is free, safe, and offers comparable visibility and discoverability
  • Versioning: Manuscripts posted to a preprint server are open to modifications by the author and versions are tracked
  • Helps represent the full lifecycle of a publication: Preprint servers will display a link to the final published version of a posted manuscript, allowing greater transparency and representation of the complete evolution of a piece of research
  • Usage statistics: Preprint servers track the number of times a manuscript has been viewed, downloaded, and cited (yes, preprints are increasingly viewed as citeable resources!), and often employ altmetrics for a broader understanding of how a work has been used by others
  • Safety: Many preprint servers run automatic plagiarism scans and virus scans
  • Flexibility: Authors can upload software, data sets, images, and other supplemental materials along with their manuscript

There are far too many general and discipline-specific preprint servers in operation to list here, and no definitive directory of servers exists. The abbreviated list below is intended to be a starting point.

  • arxiv.org is the largest and oldest preprint server, offering discrete platforms for a broad range of disciplines and sub-fields, including physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, statistics, electrical engineering, and economics
  • bioRxiv.org is the preprint server for biologists
  • medRxiv.org is the preprint server for health scientists and clinicians
  • chemrxiv.org is the preprint server for chemists
  • Humanities Commons serves as a sort of preprint server or sharing network for humanities scholars
  • Preprints.org is a popular general preprint server that covers a wide range of subject areas (supported by MDPI Publishers)

For help finding an appropriate preprint server, or to ask any questions about these platforms, please contact Taylor Davis-Van Atta, Director of the Digital Research Commons.