Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Spark a Discussion

Preprint servers may help the scientific peer review process get back to its roots as a quality control mechanism, writes Imperial College's Stephen Curry at the Guardian.

To his mind, peer review has become "an adjuster rather than a filter of research publications." While some reviewers offer constructive suggestions, he says errors and shortcomings still make it through the process — which, he notes, is "a complex task performed by busy people" — and are only caught by eagle-eyed readers or other labs trying to build on the findings. There is also, he says, too much of an emphasis on where a paper is published.

But depositing papers in preprint servers like arXiv or bioRxiv enables researchers to have their papers critiqued and discussed by a wide audience before they are published, Curry says.

"Preprint servers are enabling the informal discussion of scientific ideas on a global scale that was once confined to correspondence between pairs of individuals," he adds. "Open commentary on preprints is also increasingly being incorporated into the management of peer review by innovative journals."

Of course, he notes that preprint servers are "no miraculous panacea" and that the system remains imperfect. "But they are a way of challenging the status quo," Curry argues. "By harnessing the culture of openness and accessibility that has been engendered by the web, and by recalling the collaborative, amateur ethos that is still at large within the scientific community, preprints can help to refocus attention where it matters — on the work itself, not where it is published."