Preprint servers

Vet reproducibility of biology preprints

Posting preprints in online repositories is common practice in the physical sciences and mathematics. It has been less satisfactory for preprints in the biological sciences, perhaps because the general standard of quality is inferior. Addressing the credibility of these submissions could bring free preprint servers such as bioRxiv (founded in 2013; bioRxiv.org) more into line with arXiv (arxiv.org), which has been running successfully for 25 years.

Introducing a staging process for submission could rectify the credibility problem. This would establish priority for new work and allow time for it to earn a seal of approval — thereby helping to speed publication after formal submission to a journal.

Initially, an abstract would be assessed by the editors of the preprint server to confirm suitability for posting. Submission of a short form of the paper would follow, with added details of raw data, materials and methods; this would allow other researchers to confirm, refute or comment on the results. After 6 months, the authors could submit a revised preprint in response to this feedback, together with evidence to support the paper's credibility and reproducibility; alternatively, they could withdraw the manuscript with dignity.

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Correspondence to Roy Calne.

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Calne, R. Vet reproducibility of biology preprints. Nature 535, 493 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/535493b

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