Preprints are good for science and good for the public

Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA; on behalf of 9 co-signatories

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We disagree with Tom Sheldon’s contention that the preprint ecosystem can present a challenge to accurate and timely journalism (Nature 559, 445; 2018). Restricting when or how preprints are released risks suppressing science communication without any clear advantage to the public.

When scientists and journalists follow fundamental principles for reporting research results — such as ensuring that publications are rigorously sourced and fact-checked — preprints pose no greater risk to the public’s understanding of science than do peer-reviewed articles (S. Sarabipour et al. PeerJ Preprints 6, e27098v1; 2018).

Responsible journalists already report on preprints with the help of real-time commentary from scientists on Twitter and elsewhere (see Peer-reviewed papers are published under an embargo, so this important resource is not available.

Preprints lead to scientific collaborations, reagent requests and adoption of new techniques. And as scientists benefit increasingly from preprints and other pre-publication research outputs, so too will the public.

Nature 560, 553 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-06054-4

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Competing Financial Interests

All co-signatories are members of the eLife Ambassador programme to promote the use of preprints. Benjamin Schwessinger is a member of the eLife Early Career Advisory Group.