With open access publishing taking the scholarly world by storm, submitting papers to preprints is becoming increasingly popular in the academic community. Preprints refer to manuscripts that are made available publicly before undergoing peer review and being published in a journal. While preprints have many benefits such as quicker dissemination of research findings and allowing for feedback before publication, there are certain critical points to keep in mind when submitting a preprint.

5 Key Points to Keep in Mind When Submitting a Preprint to a Journal

1. Transparency When Submitting Preprints 

Maintaining transparency by disclosing the preprints’ existence to the target journal for publication is crucial. This ensures that there is no overlap between the preprint and the manuscript submitted for publication. Linking the preprint to the published version is also necessary to enable readers to see how the manuscript has evolved from the preprint stage to the published version.

2. Compliance With Institutional and Discipline-specific Policies 

In terms of preprint policies, there is no one-size-fits-all approach across all disciplines or journals. Some journals encourage authors to share their preprints before submitting them to the journal while others discourage it or have restrictions on what can be shared.

Institutional policies around preprints vary and authors must ensure compliance when submitting preprints. Many universities have policies regarding preprints and their submission to institutional repositories. Authors should be aware of these policies and ensure compliance.

Preprint policies vary across disciplines; therefore, authors must research about journal's preprint policy and be aware of the differences across disciplines. Some journals may have defined requirements such as specifying non-commercial servers or preferred licenses. 

In some disciplines, such as Physics and Mathematics, preprints have been a common practice for many years, and many prestigious journals in these fields strongly encourage authors to share preprints before or after submitting them to the journal. For example, arXiv is a popular preprint server for Physics, Mathematics, and Computer Science. In contrast, some medical journals, such as the Journal of Orthopaedic Research, do not accept manuscripts that have been previously shared as preprints.

3. Examples of Preprint Policies 

Examples of journals with differing preprint policies can provide insight into the landscape of preprint policies. Authors may consider the examples given below while submitting a preprint.

PLOS accepts manuscripts that have been previously posted as preprints and also encourages authors to share their work before or during the peer review process. However, the preprint must be cited in the submitted manuscript.

Nature allows authors to post their manuscripts as preprints before submission but they do not allow preprints to be posted during the peer review process. They also require that the preprint is cited in the submitted manuscript.

Cell Press, Wiley, and Elsevier allow authors to post preprints before submission as well as during the peer review process. However, the preprints must be cited in the submitted manuscripts.

4. Target Journal's Preprint Policy 

Authors contemplating submission to a target journal should first confirm the publication's attitude on preprints. Preprint procedures vary greatly amongst journals and being unaware of these regulations might result in publishing delays, submission rejection, or even significant ethical difficulties.

Sending a manuscript to a journal that discourages or does not accept preprints might result in a loss of time and effort if the work is subsequently rejected due to earlier publication. Similarly, releasing a preprint in a way that violates a journal's regulations is considered unethical and may jeopardise the author's reputation.

Moreover, preprints can influence the peer-review process. If a paper is shared as a preprint, certain journals may consider it already published which may influence the novelty and priority of the results. This might result in stricter peer review or possibly submission rejection. Some journals on the other hand may see preprints as a vital instrument for expediting scientific communication and cooperation, and thus may be more ready to accept articles provided as preprints.

5. Submitting a Quality Preprint 

While preprints allow for criticism before publication, writers should make sure that the preprint is comprehensive and well-written. A badly written or unfinished manuscript might cast a negative light on the author's effort. As a result, before submitting a preprint, writers must take the time to ensure that the work is of good quality.

In light of these factors, it's worth noting that while many publications now allow preprints, their regulations on whether preprints can be released throughout the peer review process and how they should be mentioned in the submitted paper might differ. Preprint policies vary among disciplines due to a variety of variables, including the possible hazards and advantages of preprints in various domains, the current publishing culture, and the attitudes of journal editors and reviewers regarding preprints.

By keeping these things in mind, authors may reap the benefits of preprints while avoiding any possible publishing difficulties.


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