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Move Over, Physicists

While it was once the domain of physicists, the pre-publication server arXiv.org is being slowly co-opted by researchers in the life sciences — particularly population geneticists, says Nature News' Ewen Callaway.

"In the past month, leading research groups have posted to arXiv high-profile papers on the genetic history of southern Africans and Europeans," Callaway says. "Other prominent population geneticists have submitted methods-based papers to the server." The number of biology papers hasn't caught up to the number of physics papers, but the change is noticeable, he adds.

Cornell University's Paul Ginsparg, who founded arXiv in 1991, welcomes the change. He tells Callaway that "it’s wonderful if biologists are belatedly joining the late 20th century."

Some life scientists were once wary of posting to arXiv for fear being scooped, or annoying the very journals they rely on to publish them. But they've come to realize that pre-publication allows for open discussion of ongoing work, and a chance to see what others think, Callaway says.