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Preprints offer early insights into research

Posted on August 9th, 2022 by in Pharma R&D

To stay competitive in R&D, it is critical to keep abreast of all the latest findings and innovations. Preprints are offering a new way to remain ahead of the curve, allowing a look into new research prior to the peer-review process.

Preprints are early versions of scholarly papers that are made available on public preprint servers in advance of publication. Because they have not gone through peer review, they must be approached with some caution. But as long as this is understood, they can be a highly valuable resource for the latest research, including, for example, randomized controlled trials.

Elsevier’s biomedical database Embase just began offering preprints earlier this year, providing users with access to article preprints from two major sites. One is medRXiv, the health sciences preprint server created by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), Yale University, and BMJ. The other is bioRXiv, the preprint server for biology, which is also operated by CSHL.

One of the advantages of preprints is not only that they can offer a window into up-to-the-minute research and findings, but that they can generate constructive feedback around the research that they present. This is especially important given that, as mentioned, these papers haven’t been peer-reviewed yet. The public response on online platforms, including in the comment sections of the preprint servers themselves, can help readers get vital context and a better understanding of the subject at hand.

Recently, members of the ASAPbio preprint review cultural norms Working Group shared their advice for how to make preprint feedback constructive in the form of principles that they call the FAST Principles for preprint feedback. The principles, which are clustered around the broad themes of Focused, Appropriate, Specific and Transparent, are designed to guide responsible discourse around preprints.

“At this early stage,” they wrote, “we all have an opportunity to contribute to positive change, as we move towards the culture of preprint feedback we’d like to see.”

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