Biomedical journal and publisher hope to bring preprints to life : Nature Medicine : Nature Publishing Group 2013-05-09


"Harold Varmus is still waiting for the revolution. In a 1999 proposal he later described as a 'manifesto,' the then director of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggested creating an electronic repository to host freely accessible research papers, including manuscripts prior to their formal publication. The next year, a version of Varmus's proposal spawned PubMed Central, a digital archive where all papers stemming from NIH-funded research must be submitted within 12 months of publication. However, the agency never created one key aspect of Varmus' ultimate vision: a preprint portal. A decade later, the practice of prepublication archiving, now routine in physics, is looking for another chance in the biomedical and life sciences. On 3 April, the journal PeerJ launched a preprint server aimed at life scientists, while Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, the publishing arm of the Long Island, New York–based research institute, is hoping to lure in biologists with its own preprint website later this year. Both are modeled on the wildly successful physical sciences preprint server,, which is gaining a fast following among some quantitative-minded biologists. ArXiv's founder Paul Ginsparg, a theoretical physicist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, believes it is a matter of when and how—not if—biomedical scientists embrace preprints. 'It's just going to happen at some point,' he says, citing the speed they bring to scientific communication. Ginsparg has watched a number of other scientific communities, from astronomy to mathematics to computer science, flock to arXiv over its 20 years and never look back. 'The interesting question is: what the hell's wrong with biology?' says the University of California–Berkeley's Michael Eisen, who co-founded the open-access publisher Public Library of Science (PLoS) in 2000.  Like many leading population geneticists, Eisen has recently begun posting many of his lab's papers on arXiv prior to publication (see Nature 48819,2012). Last month, for example, Eisen posted a paper exploring how the parasite Toxoplasma gondii makes infected mice less fearful of cats, an important host in the parasite's life cycle ( Researchers who study emerging infectious diseases have also found arXiv useful. Chinese scientists on 7 April posted a genomic analysis of the country's ongoing H7N9 influenza virus outbreak ( ..."


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Date tagged:

05/09/2013, 12:26

Date published:

05/09/2013, 08:26