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083: Preprint First, Peer-Review Later – Hello PhD


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Podcast: Hello PhD
Episode: 083: Preprint First, Peer-Review Later – Hello PhD
Episode pub date: 2017-11-21


Publishing your research in a peer-reviewed academic journal is an exercise in patience. You write and edit, wait for feedback from your PI, wrangle the figures into some esoteric format, and then submit.  That’s when the real patience begins.
From submission to publication, the peer review process can take more than a year.  Meanwhile, you’re moving on to other work, and hoping a competing lab doesn’t scoop the science you showed at the last conference.
Enter the preprint.  Though it sounds unassuming, it’s a source of real controversy in the biomedical sciences.

Like Reprints, But Way Earlier
Essentially, a preprint is just a manuscript submitted to an online repository before it has gone through peer review.
The benefits are perhaps unexpected: preprints enable anyone to access your research, regardless of their budget for journal subscriptions.  Peers can comment on the work, and offer suggestions for follow-up experiments that may speed your research through the traditional review process. And preprinting can establish your lab’s primacy when another researcher tries to scoop your work.
But preprints offer hazards as well.  Will the quality of research decline if experiments are not reviewed first? What if no one shows up to comment or collaborate?
Launched in 2013, bioRxiv.org intends to answer these questions empirically.  Based on the longstanding ArXiv.org, a preprint server for physics and mathematics, bioRxiv “is a free online archive and distribution service for unpublished preprints in the life sciences.”
In this week’s episode we talk with Jessica Polka, PhD. She’s the Director of ASAPbio where she works to promote the productive use of preprints in the life sciences. She explores the common concerns she hears from biomedical scientists, and how she believes preprints could revolutionize discovery and collaboration.

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