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When you choose to publish with PLOS, your research makes an impact. Make your work accessible to all, without restrictions, and accelerate scientific discovery with options like preprints and published peer review that make your work more Open.

Trends in Preprints

Ever since our partnership with bioRxiv started in May 2018, we’ve been collecting data on submissions that choose to be posted as preprints, as well as those that do not. Recently, we’ve been delving into these data to unearth any interesting trends: Who’s posting preprints? How do they affect publication? Is preprinting still increasing in popularity? Read on for the answers!

Preprint posting is on the rise

Since the launch of bioRxiv in 2013, the number of life science preprints posted by the scientific community has been rising. We’ve seen the same trend in research posted via our preprint posting program at PLOS, in the year since our service took full effect in August 2018. Hopefully we’ll reach the milestone of 300 posted preprints in a single month soon!

It’s not only PLOS-facilitated preprinting that is on the up, we’ve also seen an increase in the number of authors telling us they’ve already posted a preprint of their manuscript before submitting to a PLOS journal.

Chart displaying the number of PLOS posted preprints and author posted preprints, with both lines trending upwards from approximately 150 per month to between 225 to 250+ per month
A table showing the opt-in rate for pre-prints for various African countries. Opt-in rates range from a high of 33% in Uganda to the lowest rate of 18% in South Africa

Authors from African institutions want preprints to be posted

PLOS’ preprint posting service appears to be very popular among scientists based in African institutions. While we have posted the highest volume of preprints from the USA, China and European countries, it is African countries that dominate our opt ins – with eight of the ten highest opt in rates. At the top of the list are Uganda and Tanzania, where over 30% of corresponding authors chose to post a preprint at submission.

I shared my work as a preprint as I just couldn’t wait for it to go public once I had put it all together. Preprints also offer a DOI and make your work easy to find on the web and in a way this gives the work legitimacy.

PLOS ONE author Matema L.E. Imakumbili, Sokoine University of Agriculture

Time to Publish

Arguably the best feature of preprints is the ability to share your work with the community when you’re ready. You can stake a claim on your results and even start receiving citations and attention before your final article publishes. But preprinting could also have a positive effect on time to publication.

We decided to do a preprint because we felt the information was important for the field to know as soon as possible and we were not sure how long the review process would take, especially in the summer…. It was great to get the social media response right away and know that the field was getting the information.

PLOS Biology author Laura Knoll, University of Wisconsin

While there could be numerous explanations for the reasons behind this, our data suggests manuscripts that have been preprinted generally move more quickly through the peer review process to publication. Preprints that have gone on to be published at PLOS receive a first decision from the editors and average of 4.4 days earlier than non-preprinted manuscripts and time to publication is even faster, coming in 8 days earlier. So far in 2019, these timings have been even more pronounced, where time to publication for preprinted manuscripts was on average 19 days faster than non-preprinted research.

We’ve been excited to see the data so far and see so many satisfied authors trying preprints for the first time. As we learn more from this program, we’ll share what we find!

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