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.
Open, non-restrictive licenses are available for you to apply to your preprint upon submission. Licencing is not mandatory; however, it is encouraged as it communicates to others how you want them to use and share your work. No license implies that you as the author hold full copyright - meaning no one can use or adapt your work without your permission.
choosealicense.com will help you decide which license to choose, depending on how you want others to use and share your work. You can further read the terms and conditions of licenses on Creative Commons. If submitting to a journal, you can look up the journal on SHERPA/RoMEO to see which license they recommend you use. If the journal isn’t listed, you can consult the journal editors to seek their advice.
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. DOIs will be generated for all preprints, and you also have the option to add the DOI of the publication associated with the preprint. Further, 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.
You can communicate and provide feedback to preprint authors in the following ways:
- OSF Preprints and most community preprint services integrate with Hypothes.is - a third-party annotation tool - to allow you to annotate preprints and provide feedback to the authors. Please see our help guide for step-by-step instructions on how to add annotations to a preprint.
- Authors can share their contact information on their preprint as a means for readers to send them feedback.
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 services are indexed by major search engines, Google Scholar, and SHARE.
We try very hard to index every preprint included in third-party preprint services, but there are a number of reasons that can lead to a discrepancy. We index new content from these services once per day. In this way, items added today might not yet appear. 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 services 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.
There are several reasons why your preprint may not be showing in Google Scholar. Below is a checklist to help you understand why your preprint may not be indexed, and what you can do on your end to ensure it gets indexed as soon as possible:
- Does your preprint have a publication DOI associated with it? If yes, and that publication is already indexed in Google Scholar, then the preprint will be read as a new version of the archived publication and will be indexed during full index rebuilds which happen twice a year.
- Do you have a single-author name, e.g. "Maria", "Mohamed"? Google Scholar does not currently support preprints with single-author names. Please add a second part to your author name from your OSF profile.
- Is your author name formatted all-lowercase? If so, this will be read as an error in Google Scholar. Please capitalize the first letter of each part of your name, e.g. "John Doe" from your OSF profile.
- Is your author name formatted all-uppercase? If so, these names will not be read in Google Scholar. Please capitalize the first letter of each part of your name, e.g. "John Doe" from your OSF profile.
Is your preprint on OSF Preprints or one of the branded 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 service 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 services 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 your work has been published, you can provide the DOI of your associated journal article to let others know that your preprint has been published.
OSF Preprints and the community preprint services register DOIs through Crossref. Crossref uses a preprint-specific metadata schema that makes it easy to connect preprints with their published articles and ORCID profiles (if authenticated with OSF). Metadata sent to Crossref includes the service name (e.g. OSF Preprints, LawArXiv, etc.), preprint title, authors, date uploaded, URL, etc. The isPreprintOf metadata field is also sent to associate a preprint/postprint with their publication.
Preprints are part of the scholarly record and cannot be deleted. However, you can request to withdraw your preprint from the service. If your request is accepted, all versions of the preprint file will be removed and basic metadata (authors, DOI, etc.) will be left behind.