Recognising the power of pre-prints
By Gregg Gordon
The benefits of the peer-reviewed publication process are, rightly, well recognised. It’s a process that plays a vital role in the knowledge lifecycle – ensuring research is reliable, trustworthy and rigorous and, as a result, met with greater confidence by the academic community and broader public alike. During an age when the immense volume of information we are faced with makes it even more challenging to separate quality research from misinformation, it plays a role that has never been more important.
While the value of the peer-review approach is understood, the rigorous process can move slowly. Depending on the field and journal submitted to, it could take many months for a single research paper to reach publication as it goes through several rounds of editorial checks, peer-review, followed by corrections – and possibly rejection – before it is distributed.
This is where SSRN – Elsevier’s open access preprint server – has stepped in and changed the game in early-stage research; showing the vital, complementary value of preprints to the publication process. With the click of a box, authors submitting papers to Elsevier journals can make their early stage research freely and rapidly available. We now have a library of branded preprint servers for journals, including Cell Press and The Lancet, where you can get a ‘first look’ at the papers they have under review.
Preprints aren’t new of course – they have long been in use in fields such as Physics and Economics – but their use and accessibility are now widening. During the pandemic we saw a proliferation of early-stage research publishing across all disciplines on SSRN, and not just on Covid-related topics. Pandemic-related research made up just a third of the increase, reflecting the broader research community’s growing understanding of the crucial role this model plays in the knowledge lifecycle, as well as the increasing expectation of the research community, and the public, for rapid research and communication of results.
This growth in early-stage research is genuinely exciting – by providing a sneak-peak of research before it moves through the peer-review and publication process, ideas can be shared earlier, and better research produced faster. And those ideas are now being shared on a significant scale.