The “Pre” in [my] “Preprint” is for Pre-figurative · Commonplace
peter.suber's bookmarks 2021-11-24
"When you are a PhD student that just published your research, and you decided to publish it as a preprint, one of the most common questions you then get asked is “Where is it now?” At least this has been my experience. Well-meaning PIs or postdocs, colleagues, strangers, that all really enjoyed reading your research and findings but also really want to know “which journal have you submitted it to now?” It’s important for them to know, or maybe it’s just a conversation starter while queuing for the cafeteria. Who knows. Your answer of “Journal X” will be followed by an understanding nod, an approving “yep, that one is a nice one,” the sharing of a funny story about their own experience with that journal. Certainly, and generally unspoken, some sort of gauging of the value of the research. Did you send it to a journal that matches the value they thought your research had? It’s a fun game to play.
Except I have nothing to answer.
They do not warn us about this when submitting to preprint servers, this ethology of post-preprint-submission in the life sciences. Maybe it should be under the disclaimer about preprints not being certified by peer-review. “Please make sure you are sending this to a journal too, or be prepared for very awkward small talk from here on.” “Make sure you also publish it for real.” They do not warn us but there are many, many signs. It’s in the way submission guidelines are written. It’s in the way preprints are talked about.undefined It’s in the way preprints are talked about in the preprint server itself.undefined It’s in the many spinoffs, add-ons, “overlay services” and “integrated pipelines” that make it more and more seamless and easy to transfer your preprint to a journal. It is in the expectations of those around you. It’s in the awkwardness of you admitting that no, you did not submit it anywhere (else?)....
I published my research on a preprint server. Making it accessible to everyone and without having to pay my way out of paywalls. More importantly, I published my research on a preprint server without plans to send it to a journal. And this is what I encourage fellow PhD students to do too. I published it with no format constraints, no figure limits, no restriction on the length of my materials and method, no cut-offs to the length of my bibliography, no “STAR-methods,” no word counts. I published it — because why not? — with an anomalously long introduction that reads more like a review and that could well be a publication of its own. I published it in my voice and in my style. I published it with an open license and without transferring copyright. I published it in its most liberated form.
Well-meaning voices will remind you that without peer-review your preprint still needs to go through the “print” process. Services now exist for that too (I should here thank ReviewCommonsundefined), and allow you to submit your preprint for review by experts in the field without having to submit it to a journal. So I did exactly that and got my preprint peer-reviewed. Peer-reviewed for its content and not for its fit for a journal. Peer-reviewed journal-independently. I posted the peer review comments publicly, alongside my research and with them, my answers.undefined Answers that I wrote not only to the reviewers themselves, but to the future readers of those reviews. I wrote them conversationally, like a three-way-dialogue, in a way that was open to possibilities and to discussion and not in a way constrained by imposed timeframes for revision and resubmission. I recommend this to my fellow PhD students too. Peer-review in a liberated and liberating form, where critical evaluation of your research are just that, critical evaluation by a peer. A contextualising opinion. Not the yes or no on whether your research should even deserve to be seen by the world...."