A preprint is an early version of an academic article that has been made available by the author for others to read for free online before it has been peer-reviewed or published by an academic journal.
(1) They allow the information contained in articles to be shared with the academic community more rapidly and openly than traditional publications. The formal journal publication process is often lengthy, and it can take many months for an article to be reviewed and published by a journal.
(2) Research has shown that publishing a journal article as a preprint can increase citations to the final peer-reviewed article.
(3) By posting a freely accessible version of an article online, the author has the opportunity to receive comments and reviews by readers that might lead to changes and improvements in the final published draft.
(4) It can be used by researchers to provide evidence of productivity when applying for jobs or submitting grant proposals, and it can also generally help to establish the priority of discovery and ideas.
(5) Posting an article as a preprint can also particularly benefit early career researchers. It can help them to find research collaborators and help to improve their professional network, which can lead to more opportunities for these researchers.
Preprints have not been peer-reviewed: While preprints are scholarly articles, they have not yet been formally peer-reviewed. Some preprint servers may do a rudimentary check to ensure that submitted content is legitimate scientific/academic research, but they are not checking the reliability and accuracy of the information in the article. It is important that those reading and using preprints keep this in mind.
A few journals might not accept articles published as preprints: While an increasing number of publishers and journals welcome the submissions of articles that have been released as a preprint, some journals might not accept them. It is important to check the policies of any journal you may wish to submit to before releasing a preprint. You can learn more about these policies using the links below.
Discipline-Specific Preprint Servers
Multidisciplinary Preprint Servers
The National Institutes of Health supports the use and citation of preprints as "interim research projects" to "speed the dissemination and enhance the rigor" of an author's work. Authors are encouraged to include preprints in their "My Bibliography" and associate preprints with their grants.
The NIH is also currently engaged in the second round of a pilot program designed to explore the inclusion of preprints in the PubMed database.
To learn about other funder's policies towards preprints, you can consult the ASAPbio webpage:
Will the publication of preprints lead to an increase in incorrect information being reported in the media?
"These concerns are valid, but there is good reason to believe that they can be mitigated and managed...[with]...attention and inspection from our scientific community....preprints can be screened before posting to block attempts to propagate misinformation. Furthermore, some preprint servers display disclaimers on the top of each article to make clear that preprints are not validated through peer-review."
Will publishing work as a preprint mean that an idea is more likely to get scooped?
"As jobs and grants become very competitive, there is increasing worry...about scooping, ie that their ideas/results will be published by others and that they will not receive proper attribution....Our argument is that this is unlikely, and indeed there is likely be to greater protection and overall fairness in establishing credit for work by submitting both to a preprint server (for fair and timely disclosure) and to a journal (for validation by peer review)."
Do I have to inform journal when I submit that I have posted the article as a preprint.
You should let a journal know if you have posted a preprint for a couple of reasons. First, this will help the journal and preprint repositories connect your preprint to the final published article. Also, since plagiarism detection software will pick up preprints as a match, the journal will more easily be able to review those reports if they know you have published a preprint.
Can a preprint provide a record of priority for idea development or discovery?
Preprint servers should include a "timestamp indicating when the article appeared, which is usually within 24 hours of submission. This date, along with the preprint itself, is made open access... and thus, anyone can determine the order of priority relative to other published work or, indeed, other preprints. While journals provide an important service of validation through peer review, the establishment of priority can be significantly delayed because the work is not public during the process of peer review in most journals."
Is an article that has been posted as a preprint automatically of a lower quality than one published in a journal?
"Certainly, the peer review process can add significant value to the work, pointing out errors or areas for improvement. Nevertheless, authors must stand behind their submitted preprint, because it is a public disclosure (and hence a citable entity), albeit a non-peer-reviewed one. Even without peer review, their scientific colleagues will be reading and judging the work, and the authors’ reputations are at stake."
The following sites were used as sources to answer these questions and they are also great places to learn even more about preprints.