Should journals solicit submissions from preprint archives?

The number of preprints published on bioRxiv per month, November 2013 to November 2018.

The use of preprints has increased drastically in the life sciences over the past few years. Preprints are manuscripts submitted to open access servers prior to, or in some cases instead of, formal publication. One popular preprint server is bioRxiv (although there are an increasing number of servers to choose from). Since bioRxiv came online in 2013 the number of preprints posted there each month has increased dramatically, from 39 in November of 2013 to 2,241 in November of 2018 (Figure 1; bioRxiv). This trend is not limited to the life sciences, and other fields, particularly physics, have embraced preprints for decades (Kaiser 2017).  While supporters of preprints argue that preprint servers will accelerate the pace of science by allowing researchers to rapidly disseminate and get feedback on their work, others worry that preprints will lead to stolen ideas and a large volume of un-reviewed literature (Kaiser 2017). 

Where are preprints leading us?

The future of preprints is unclear. Some have suggested that preprint servers will replace journals altogether (Kaiser 2017). Others see preprints as a step to take prior to publication in a peer-reviewed journal, rather than a replacement. It is also possible that the two could play off of each other. What if journals solicited preprints? 

Imagine: you post your paper on bioRxiv. A few weeks later, you receive an email from an Associate Editor inviting you to submit your paper to a particular journal. How would you respond, and how would this change your attitude towards preprint servers? How could this change the fields of evolutionary biology and ecology? The Junior Editorial Board of Molecular Ecology and Molecular Ecology Resources wants your feedback on this subject. Please take this short survey (~3 minutes) to let us know how you feel about preprints and the idea of journals soliciting promising preprints for submission. Thanks in advance for your valuable feedback. 

The Junior Editorial Board

  •             Megan L. Smith
  •             Luke Browne
  •             Nick Fountain-Jones


Kaiser, J. “Are preprints the future of biology? A survival guide for scientists.” Science 397 (2017). doi: 10.1126/science.aaq0747

“Advanced Search.” BioRxiv, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory,

About Jeremy Yoder

Jeremy B. Yoder is an Assistant Professor of Biology at California State University Northridge, studying the evolution and coevolution of interacting species, especially mutualists. He is a collaborator with the Joshua Tree Genome Project and the Queer in STEM study of LGBTQ experiences in scientific careers. He has written for the website of Scientific American, the LA Review of Books, the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Awl, and Slate.
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