Preprints help journalism, not hinder it

Open Science MOOC, Leicester, UK.

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de Duve Institute, Catholic University of Louvain, Brussels, Belgium.

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Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.

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In suggesting that preprints could distort the public’s understanding of science, Tom Sheldon perpetuates the fallacy that peer review is a guarantee of validity (Nature 559, 445; 2018). There are countless examples to the contrary (see, for instance, A. Margalida and M. À. Colomer PeerJ 4, e1670; 2016).

A responsible journalist consults multiple independent sources to verify research findings. This critical evaluation is not contingent on the research having been peer reviewed. Preprints provide early and unrestricted dissemination of research outputs, so journalists can often peruse expert feedback when considering a story. And most preprint servers either label preprints as ‘not peer reviewed’ or have editorial ‘sanity checks’ in place to prevent the posting of junk science.

Plenty of peer-reviewed research papers contain errors. Preprints provide a chance to spot these and have them removed before publication. In our view, preprints and peer review are complementary.

Nature 560, 553 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-06055-3
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Competing Financial Interests

Jonathan Tennant is founder of the preprint server paleorXiv; and member of the Knowledge Exchange working group on preprints.