What is a preprint? How are preprints good for my career? Where should I upload my preprint? Read these FAQs to learn more about preprints and how they benefit your research.
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A preprint is a complete manuscript shared with a public audience without peer review. Often, preprints are also submitted for peer review and publication in a traditional scholarly journal. Preprints uploaded to OSF Preprints or a community preprint server accelerate scholarly communication and public access.
Journal peer review can be a slow process. Rapid dissemination of research ideas and data benefits researchers, their funders, and the public. Preprints provide a mechanism for authors to receive more rapid feedback on their research.
Many communities support the sharing of preprints. For example, the physics community developed ArXiv over 20 years ago. BiorXiv and PeerJ are preprint servers primarily for the life sciences community. PsyArXiv, SocArXiv, engrXiv, and numerous other emerging groups have partnered with OSF Preprints to support preprint sharing in psychology, the social sciences, and engineering, respectively. You can access these community preprint servers through the OSF Preprints landing page or by going to their individual preprint repositories. Finally, OSF Preprints is designed for any researchers in any field to share their work.
The Center for Open Science (COS) is a non-profit organization with the mission of increasing the openness, integrity, and reproducibility of scientific research. By supporting communities with infrastructure, we allow researchers to focus on their research and on growing communities around open and transparent practices. Please see our Strategic Plan for more information about our mission and organization.
Our source code is free and open to the public to contribute to and use. Open source code has many advantages, including sustainability.The code base for the OSF and OSF Preprints is entirely open source, allowing other groups to contribute to and expand the platform.
Preprints are not generally considered as publications. Most journals will accept articles that have been shared as preprints; however, some journals will not. We recommend you check the journal’s policies on this matter prior to submitting an article that you have previously shared as a preprint. You can find information about most journal policies at SHERPA/RoMEO.
When you upload your preprint, you’re given the option to license it. The current licenses available for OSF Preprints and community preprint servers are CC-0 1.0 Universal and CC-By Attribution 4.0 International. These are open licenses. Although you’re not required to license your preprint, doing so provides a means for you to communicate how you would like others to use your research. If you’re going to share supplemental data and/or code, OSF Projects can be licensed separately from the preprints. Additional licenses are available on projects. For more information about licenses, see Creative Commons or choosealicense.com.
Posting a preprint allows you to receive rapid feedback on your research and find a broader audience for your work. Since journal peer review can be slow, creating a preprint allows you to receive feedback and have impact immediately. And, by sharing a preprint openly, even those without access to paywalled journals can discover and read your work pre- or post-publication.
When you share a preprint with OSF Preprints or a community preprint server, you can easily share supplemental files like data and code with it. The URL assigned to your preprint is a persistent, globally unique identifier - meaning it will always point to your preprint and can be used in citations. You’ll have access to these supplemental files as well as to full abstracts. There is no paywall for these preprint servers and there are licenses available if you wish to license your preprint.
There are a few ways for preprint authors and readers to communicate:
- Authors can share their contact information on their preprint as a means for readers to send them feedback.
- Readers can provide feedback by commenting on the OSF project connected to the preprint. Please see our Commenting help guide for instructions on how to comment on an OSF project.
- Authors and readers can communicate through social media and blogs.
In the future, commenting will be built into OSF Preprints and community preprint servers.
OSF Preprints and Community Preprint Servers
You should upload your preprint to whichever preprint server best fits your topic and the community that you would like to reach. If there isn’t a community-driven preprint server for your discipline, OSF Preprints is available for any discipline.
Currently, you can only share your preprint on one community preprint server. It’s on our roadmap to allow users to submit a preprint to multiple community preprint servers. However, to improve discoverability across communities, all preprints shared on OSF Preprints and community preprint servers are indexed and searchable via osf.io/preprints.
The subject areas are defined by the BePress taxonomy. Selecting subjects effectively can improve the discoverability of your work.
It’s important to have your preprint in the state in which you want it to appear prior to sharing it. Below we provide a checklist to plan how you want your preprint to appear. See our Share a Preprint help guide for instructions on how to upload a preprint.
- You should have your article ready to upload in an easily accessible file. Make sure that you’ve removed any personal information from your article that you don’t want to make public.
- Determine the discipline(s) that best fit your preprint. The disciplines and subdisciplines available will vary by preprint server.
- Choose whether or not you want to license your preprint. See the licenses question for more information on the available licenses.
- Write your abstract, and make sure that it’s at least 20 characters long. You can either type your abstract or copy and paste it into the textbox during the upload process. You can’t upload an abstract as a file.
- Communicate with your co-authors that you want to share your article as a preprint and determine the order in which you want the names to appear.
All preprints submitted to OSF Preprints and community preprint servers are indexed by major search engines, Google Scholar, and SHARE.
We try very hard to index every preprint included in third-party preprint servers, but there are a number of reasons that can lead to a discrepancy. We index new content from these servers once per day, so items added today might not show up yet. Beyond that, there can be differences in the way services report numbers for new versions of preprints or deleted preprints. When we find these discrepancies, we reach out to the preprint servers and work together to resolve them.
If there is a specific preprint you're looking for that's not included in our index, please report the "missing" preprint to firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can investigate the issue and improve our indexing.
Is your preprint on OSF Preprints or one of the Community Preprint services hosted on the OSF? If so, your preprint should be indexed in search in a few minutes. If it's not, please report it to email@example.com.
Is your preprint on a third party preprint server indexed in the aggregate search on OSF Preprints? There are many reasons a preprint might not show up in our aggregate search. We're always working to improve our index and working with other preprint servers to improve their feeds. If you report a "missing" preprint to firstname.lastname@example.org, we can investigate. Please note that we harvest new content nightly, so give our index a day to catch up with any newly-created preprints on external services.
Preprint DOIs are generated automatically when you upload a preprint. If you're uploading a postprint, you can provide the DOI of your associated journal article to let others know that your preprint has been published.
To cite a preprint uploaded to OSF Preprints or a community preprint server, you should provide the author’s full name and year, followed by the preprint’s title, the preprint server name, and the persistent URL.
Nosek, Brian A. 2016. Response latency in social psychological research. OSF Preprints https://osf.io/nuwdt.
Berg, David. 2016. Incorporation of liberal education into the engineering curriculum at a polytechnic. engrXiv https://osf.io/preprints/engrxiv/xjpcm/.