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ACS News

Chemistry preprint servers launched

Beta ChemRxiv site and ChemRN are now accepting manuscripts from the chemistry community ahead of peer review

by Celia Henry Arnaud
August 17, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 33

Two chemistry preprint servers have been launched in the past few weeks.

ACS launched a beta version of ChemRxiv, a preprint server for the chemistry community, last week. ChemRxiv has been developed with input from ACS, the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the German Chemical Society, along with other nonprofit organizations and scientific publishers.

“With strategic input from three large chemical societies, other nonprofits, and engagement with other preprint servers, ChemRxiv is truly by the chemistry community, for the chemistry community,” says Darla Henderson, assistant director of open access programs at ACS. C&EN is published by ACS.

Laura L. Kiessling, chemistry professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and editor-in-chief of ACS Chemical Biology, championed the idea of a preprint server to her fellow ACS journal editors. A preprint server will allow scientists to disseminate their results more rapidly and will allow others to build on those results, she says.

ChemRxiv is not alone in chemistry prepublication, however: Two weeks ago, publisher Elsevier announced its own chemistry preprint server, the Chemistry Research Network (ChemRN), which is part of SSRN, an electronic library serving multiple disciplines. Its introduction comes shortly after that of BioRN, a biology network launched in June that was SSRN’s first network outside the social sciences.

“SSRN is in a unique position to serve the chemistry community,” says Gregg Gordon, managing director of SSRN. “We have over 20 years of experience in building community-focused networks, and we benefit from Elsevier’s knowledge, technology, and close connection to its authors.”

Chemists may worry that submission to preprint servers will jeopardize later publication in a peer-reviewed journal. More than 80% of ACS journals, including ACS Chemical Biology, already allow preprints to be published in their pages, Henderson says.

The Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), ACS’s flagship journal, has a more restrictive policy: “Any content that has been made publicly available, either in print or electronic format, and that contains a significant amount of new information, if made part of a submitted manuscript, may jeopardize the originality of the submission and may preclude consideration for publication,” according to the journal’s website.

Peter J. Stang, editor-in-chief of JACS, says the journal’s editorial board will discuss the policy at its meeting at the August 2018 ACS national meeting in Boston. “Until then, the restrictive policy stays,” he says.

Benjamin List, editor-in-chief of Synlett, a journal from publisher Thieme that has experimented with crowd-based reviewing, is not yet sure how to deal with preprints. “What I like about the concept is that it enables authors to decide when their work is published,” he says. “A disadvantage is that there will always be multiple versions of a paper.” He expects preprints to lead to improved quality if crowd reviewing is involved.

The hope is that chemistry preprint servers will accelerate science. “The more researchers who engage with the preprint process, the more valuable the server becomes,” Kiessling says.

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