Indian scientists launch preprint repository to boost research quality

IndiaRxiv is the latest of several preprint servers set up to host research from a particular region.

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Researchers in India will soon have their own preprint repository where they can post manuscripts from any discipline. The founders of IndiaRxiv hope it will improve the quality of science in the country.

The repository joins a growing number of preprint servers hosting research from a particular region, including Indonesia’s INA-Rxiv and Africa’s AfricArxiv.

“The success of the Indonesian and African preprint repositories motivated us to create another one for the global south,” says Sridhar Gutam, a plant scientist at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi. Gutam founded the advocacy group Open Access India, which is leading the IndiaRxiv initiative.

IndiaRxiv will be accepting submissions from the end of April. These can include original research, case studies, conference proceedings and data sets. The repository will host submissions in English and any Indian language.

Gutam also hopes that the platform reduces researchers’ reliance on predatory journals. These publications promise swift publication, within a matter of days, but charge for publication, often without services such as peer-review or editing.

Pressure to publish

Gutam says some early-career researchers publish in these journals to fulfil the government’s academic assessment requirements for career advancement, which place weight on the number of research publications. Other academics use predatory journals because they are in a rush to publish so as to claim an idea first. “There is a heavy dependence in India on predatory journals,” says Praveen Chaddah, a condensed-matter physicist on the advisory board of IndiaRxiv.

Putting a manuscript on a preprint server will allow researchers to stake their claim to an idea quickly, says Gutam, and to improve their work through feedback they get from their peers. They can then identify an appropriate journal in which to publish their manuscript, he says.

Although preprints won’t count towards the government’s assessment requirement, Open Access India hopes that will change in future.

Value judgement

In the meantime, the architects of IndiaRxiv will have to convince the scientific community of the benefits of preprint repositories. Many researchers in India still do not see the value of such servers, says Gutam. An analysis in Current Science of 69 repositories managed by Indian institutions found that a quarter received no uploads in the year leading up to June 2016. A preprint server created by Open Access India for agricultural science, AgriXiv, has received some 120 submissions since its launch in February 2017.

Although several national funding agencies have policies that recommend academics post early versions of manuscripts to preprint repositories, many Indian journals still do not accept submissions that have been archived. Journals should allow authors to deposit preprints in public repositories, says Gutam.

“We want to educate authors, faculty members and research managers of this new kind of platform to freely exchange knowledge,” he says.

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01082-0

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