The American Chemical Society announced today that it will create a preprint server for chemistry research to promote sharing of early scientific results.
Preprint servers allow researchers to publish draft papers or preliminary data online to get feedback from the larger research community before a paper goes through a journal’s more formal peer review process.
“A preprint server dedicated to chemists will help speed the dissemination of research results, solicit valuable feedback, and foster international collaboration,” says Kevin Davies, a vice president in ACS’s Publications Division who is spearheading the effort.
ACS is currently seeking collaborators to join in development of the server, which is tentatively called ChemRxiv. The joint undertaking between two of ACS’s divisions—CAS and Publications—is expected to launch in the next few months.
Preprint servers have been popular in physics and computer science for more than 20 years. ArXiv, the largest and most successful preprint server, has an active community of physicists who contribute research articles and comment on publications. A recent push also created bioRxiv for the biological sciences.
“Given recent announcements of new preprint servers for the social sciences and engineering, chemistry was beginning to look like a bit of a loner,” says Stephen Curry, a structural biologist at Imperial College London who advocates publication of all results—not just the positive ones. So he’s happy to hear about these new efforts.
The details of how ChemRxiv might work have not yet been decided. Curry says that its success will depend, in large part, on how easy the preprint server is to use. A push for culture change is also needed to “get people into the preprint habit,” he says.
Past attempts at creating a chemistry preprint server failed, including one launched as part of a website called ChemWeb.com. Bill Town, who was chief executive officer of that endeavor, says: “The main reason for its ultimate demise was the attitude of journal editors who regarded web publishing of preprints as prior publication,” Town says. These editors, from ACS and elsewhere, would therefore not accept the work in their journals later on, says Town, who welcomes the new effort.
Nature, Science, and many other top journals now regularly accept research that has been published in a preprint server.
On a journal-by-journal basis, ACS editors can decide whether to accept papers that have already been published online, says Davies, who is also C&EN’s publisher. Currently, 20 of the 50 ACS journals accept preprints unconditionally and about a dozen more allow it but ask for the author to discuss any preprint publication with an editor.
Carolyn Bertozzi, editor-in-chief of the open access journal ACS Central Science, has made the decision to allow authors to pursue preprint publication, and she hopes other ACS journal editors join her.
“Allowing preprint deposition is a forward-looking strategy that acknowledges that both an author and a journal can benefit from broad dissemination and feedback in advance of publication, while keeping the version of record with the journal following traditional peer review and publication,” Bertozzi says. “It’s our hope that chemists will see the shifting winds and that our community no longer considers a preprint server a threat.”