Preprint at work and at work for preprints

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our experience getting rejected during the review process, at the R1-R2 stage, for novelty reasons. Another group had submitted and published a competing manuscript after our initial submission. This all happened while we had posted the preprint of our manuscript on biorxiv several months prior.  Our story ended well. After some noise the editors reconsidered and invited us to resubmit. You can read the whole story here.

A couple of months have passed since the graceful turn around of PLoS. We were able to address the remaining reviewer’s concerns. So now our manuscript is improved and finally fully approved be the peer review process. You can read the accepted version of the manuscript here, all previous versions here and a short media snipped here. ///In case you are interested in improving crops be intergenus transfer of immune receptors I recommend these papers in wheat, rice and Arabidopsis.///

….this whole story was only possible with PLoS, who actually cares about the community it serves. Imagine a AAAS or Nature group journal, I bet they would have simply swept us aside.

Enough of the background story….Was it worth all the hassle? Do preprints work in my field (of plant biology)? Would I post a preprint of my work again?

Yes it was worth all the hassle. I truly think we were treated unfairly as it simply isn’t good manners to reject a manuscript due to novelty reasons alone during the review process. The journal already engaged you and asked for more. Now it simply drops you like a hot potato?!? No one wants a dirty potato off the floor! Our preprint simply made our case stronger and public.

Yes it was worth all the hassle. Our preprint got over 1500 visits and 500 pdf downloads before publication with PLoS. Doesn’t sound much to you…well it is well more than none while hidden away in a pile of papers of a busy reviewer.

I think it is (very) early days for preprints in plant biology. Several (senior) PIs told me that it doesn’t work, it isn’t good for your career, it hurts early career researchers, the field is too competitive….well that’s their opinion not mine. Others have written good posts of why to support preprints (here, here, here, here)  so I won’t repeat all that jazz here (yet see below). The plant biology community in particular though can only profit from more openness including preprints, post publication peer review (PPPR), public peer review (PPR) and similar new ways of improving the peer review/publication process. I tend to wonder if many of the high profile retractions (here and here) and falsification accusations (here and here) could have been avoided in a more transparent culture. Impossible to tell in hindsight yet well worth striving for in near future. More transparency and openness is really the only way forward…

Yes of course! Every time I have the chance I will post my manuscript on a pre-print server at time of submission. I deem it ready to go public so no reason to hold back! /// I even hope to  get feedback on a preprint someday./// This decisions of course also depends on my co-authors and our journal choice. ///See (not fully up-to-date) policies here. And no in my experience AAAS does not support preprints./// Also the American Society of Plant Biology (ASPB) wasn’t really supportive of preprints up to very recently. Thankfully this has changed due to lobbying efforts of several of its members (including myself) as you can read here and here. ASPB hasn’t publicly announced this change however I hope they follow in the footsteps of other big societies such as American Phytopathological Society (APS), Amercian Society of Microbiology (ASM), and Genetics Society of America (GSA) to only name a few. It is great to see scientific societies listening to their memberships.

Yes preprints work as long as we work for them. It will be great to see preprints fully take of in (plant) biology including pre-publication reviews such as here.  I can only agree with others that the whole publication experience needs to be improved. Researchers should not feel like ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ when it comes to publication and sharing their knowledge. Hidden away peer review might help improve your manuscript in many, but for sure not all cases. It doesn’t appear to be the best way to decide on accept/reject of your manuscript (see also here) and thereby deciding on your future in academia.


3 thoughts on “Preprint at work and at work for preprints

  1. It is startling that some senior figures claim preprints hurt early career researchers. Part of our motivation for setting up bioRxiv was that younger scientists, unlike senior figures, will apply for grants and faculty positions at a stage in their career when they have published few papers as senior author but have several written/submitted. Preprints allow them to make such work available for grant/tenure committees months to years before it is actually published.

    Note that the NIH biosketch was recently changed so that investigators must list ‘scientific contributions’ as opposed to just ‘publications’, which will allow them to include preprints.

  2. Not a preprint server, but recenlty actually I came up with f1000research. The interesting here is that it does the other way round process: first “publish” (that is, make accessible for all scientists), and then peer-review (
    In addition, it is open peer-review system, where you can see who is actually reviewing your paper, in addition to all comments available to all readers.
    I think it is a nice alternative to pre-prints, although once sent to f1000research it cannot be published elsewhere, because they consider it to be duplicate (so in this sense, different from bioRxiv, that is why it is not a preprint).
    However, the idea of first releasing the science and afterwards peer-reviewing is a nice twist of “classical” reviewing process, and would actually avoid the scooping that may happen while our papers are being peer-reviewed.

  3. Pingback: Deposit full protocols early! | lushgreengrassatafridayafternoon

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