Best practices for publishing primarily on eprint websites

Given the lack of good open access options in my field, I’ve decided to publish primarily on eprint websites, similar to Grigori Perelman. That is, no submission to a journal, publishing directly to the eprint site.

Are there any best practices for this?

I’m concerned about the longevity of the eprint site I use, engrXiv, so I plan to start using multiple in case any one goes offline.

Another concern is the lack of peer review. Many academics seem to think that peer review makes a paper credible, but I see peer review as too unreliable to lend much credibility to a paper. What can be done to satisfy the academics who view peer review as essential? I’m tempted to not worry about them, but perhaps I can satisfy them.

(Note: I think most of the problems peer review solves can be anticipated ahead of time if one is careful, and I do intend to get feedback from others. But I won’t be going through the formalized journal peer review process.)

A third concern is promoting the paper. Many people learn about papers in their field by following particular journals. I don’t know how much attention I lose by publishing only at eprint sites. Fortunately, some eprint sites like arXiv have subject categories which could serve a similar purpose, though these categories are not as specific as many journals are.


I think there are certainly good reasons to make your work available on pre-print servers.

However, I believe peer-review is essential to the quality of published research. If there are no open access options in your field, I would try to look for another solution than not publishing in peer-reviewed journals.

I think it is a risk to say that ‘you’re tempted not to worry about academics who regard peer review as essential’. Most researchers think it is essential and a logical consequence would be that they will give less weight to your research.

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I don’t mean to turn this particular thread into a debate about the value of peer review. Whoever is interested in that could start a new thread where I could go into more detail about my view. I am interested in the more narrow question of how to address the concerns of those who view peer review as essential if one is not going through a formal peer review process.

Good question Ben, I’m glad to hear that you’re trying to look for ways to publish openly in engineering. (I’m always frustrated that articles by IEEE are paywalled)

Firstly, I’d suggest checking out for open access engineering journals to see if you like any. Bonus, the majority of the DOAJ journals don’t have article processing charges.

Wrt to longevity, there is currently an effort to archive Open Access journals (see here), and I expect this would also get extended to preprint servers if they looked to be in danger. (also, engrXiv is on the OSF Preprints platform, and I assume that COS has some plans for data stewardship, even if individual Preprint servers they host eventually close).

Peer-review is more difficult, you are right in that it is seen as a sign of credibility by both academics and the public. While I agree that traditional peer-review has many flaws, I think the journals that now publish the reviewer report and editorial statements are more useful. If you want to aim for some kind of review (beyond informal commenting), and would suggest looking into these options:

  1. Pre-print review, see some examples here:
  2. Post-publication peer-review: F1000 is well known for this, not sure of others (IIRC some ScienceOpen journals do this, or at least allow commenting)
  3. Try to facilitate commenting by making an entry on PubPeer for your pre-print and putting a link to this at the top of the publication (or some similar strategy).

You might want to check out the Journal of Research Ideas and Outcomes (h/t @antonio.schettino). Not only do they accept a huge range of publication types, but they do also allow post-publication peer review and will optionally arrange a pre-publication review. About I’m considering publishing some items there next year.

With respect to advertising, I think you’ll have to take more responsibility for this if you are primarily pre-printing. One option would just be to mail the pre-print to people from your field who you think will be interested (like the authors of recent works you’ve cited, also current and former colleagues). FWIW I feel that following individual journals is declining, at least in younger academics, so I think this will be less of a problem now than it would have been during the printed journal days.

You might also be interested in this thread, which included a few links about pre-prints in the context of the broader publishing ecosystem.

Also, I can recommend the following book by our late colleague Jon Tennant, it aggregates a collection of his posts on Open Science, many of which discuss options related to pre-printing and open peer-review.

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thanks gavin… good stuff… :slight_smile:

When reading the pre-print A Falsificationist Treatment of Auxiliary Hypotheses in Social and Behavioral Sciences: Systematic Replications Framework I noticed they noted:

Submitted to Meta-Psychology. Participate in open peer review by commenting through directly on this preprint.

Could be another option @btrettel, even if you haven’t submitted your preprint anywhere.

ASAPBio is also trying to encourage preprint review. I went to their FeedbackASAP workshop last week and got inspired enough to review some preprints myself:

ASAPBIO also runs ReimagineReview which has listings for preprint peer review projects (some of which let the authors request reviews)

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Thanks for the advice @Gavin.

A few months back I started looking again at open access options in fluid mechanics, my area. Seems that the landscape has improved, but the prices are still outrageous. The free open access journals in fluid mechanics listed on the DOAJ are obscure. In my experience, publishing in an obscure journal is regarded as almost as bad as only publishing an eprint. I’ll wait more to see if the open access options change.

I’m becoming more optimistic about the various online peer review options in part due to your comments. Recently I was organizing some papers I saved and came across this study which suggests that PubPeer helps correct science.

Ultimately, though, I find it unlikely that any eprint I post online would get even a single review from a qualified person. In my experience, the articles that get discussed on Twitter or PubPeer tend to be in the news or in “sexier” fields. To me that is the biggest flaw with the various online peer review options. Yes, some articles will get a lot of attention, but most will get none. At least in the conventional journal peer review process, someone will look at your paper. I personally think reviewers do far too cursory a job, but it’s at least something.

I’ve been thinking about starting a website to connect people to do careful reviews. I’d be happy to review someone else’s work closely for them if they’d do the same for me. After examining dozens of patent applications, I think I’ve become a fair bit better at reviewing documents in general, though I don’t do as thorough a job as an examiner as I would for a science paper due to a lack of time.

And if there were a way to pay someone to do a careful review of my paper, I might be willing to pay a sum comparable to an APC!

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Ultimately, though, I find it unlikely that any eprint I post online would get even a single review from a qualified person. In my experience, the articles that get discussed on Twitter or PubPeer tend to be in the news or in “sexier” fields.

Yeah, ASAPBio’s new preprint FAQ doesn’t have any better suggestion for getting preprint reviews than:

To request feedback, tweet out a request, or leave a comment on your own preprint inviting public review. Here’s a suggested format:

“My co-authors and I welcome public feedback on our preprint, ideally by [DATE]. We are especially interested in [statistics, etc].”

But if you offer to pay for a prereview in the tweet then you should get more interest than usual :smiley:

I’ve been thinking about starting a website to connect people to do careful reviews. I’d be happy to review someone else’s work closely for them if they’d do the same for me.

This idea seems familiar enough that it seems like there should already be something around that does most of what you want. I certainly recall reading ideas being put forward to have people doing reviews for credits that they can then spend to get reviews of their own work. @cooper you have been thinking about prereview lately, can you think of any service that facilitates reviewer matching?

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