From The New York Times:
On Feb. 29, Carol Greider of Johns Hopkins University became the third Nobel Prize laureate biologist in a month to do something long considered taboo among biomedical researchers: She posted a report of her recent discoveries to a publicly accessible website, bioRxiv, before submitting it to a scholarly journal to review for “official’’ publication.
It was a small act of information age defiance, and perhaps also a bit of a throwback, somewhat analogous to Stephen King’s 2000 self-publishing an e-book or Radiohead’s 2007 release of a download-only record without a label. To commemorate it, she tweeted the website’s confirmation under the hashtag #ASAPbio, a newly coined rallying cry of a cadre of biologists who say they want to speed science by making a key change in the way it is published.
Dear Dr. Greider, We are pleased to inform you that the above manuscript has passed screening and will be online shortly. Cant wait #ASAPbio
— Carol Greider (@CWGreider) Feb. 29, 2016
Such postings are known as “preprints’’ to signify their early-stage status, and the 2,048 deposited on three-year-old bioRxiv over the last year represent a barely detectable fraction of the million or so research papers published annually in traditional biomedical journals.
But after several dozen biologists vowed to rally around preprints at an “ASAPbio’’ meeting last month, the site has had a small surge, and not just from scientists whose august stature protects them from risk. On Twitter, preprint insurgents are celebrating one another’s postings and jockeying for revolutionary credibility.
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For most of the history of organized scientific research, the limitations of technology made print journals the chief means of disseminating scientific results. But some #ASAPbio advocates argue that since the rise of the Internet, biologists have been abdicating their duty to the public — which pays for most academic research — by not sharing results as quickly and openly as possible.
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Unlike physicists, for whom preprints became a default method of communicating discoveries in the 1990s, biomedical researchers typically wait more than six months to disseminate their work while they submit it — on an exclusive basis — to the most prestigious journal they think might accept it for publication. If, as is often the case, it is rejected, they try another journal. As a result, it can sometimes take years to publish a paper, which is then typically available for a time only to colleagues at major academic institutions whose libraries pay for subscriptions. And because science is in many ways a relay, with one scientist building on the published work of another, the communication delays almost certainly slow scientific progress.
Researchers say they participate in the process in large part because the imprimatur of highly selective journals like Science, Nature and Cell has come to be viewed as a proxy for quality science. Like a degree from certain colleges, a study in an elite journal can be a passport to jobs, funding and promotions.
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The delays prevent scientists from showing off their most recent work to prospective employers or benefactors. They have also, some researchers say, begun to look faintly absurd against the general expectations for speed and openness in the not-so-new digital age. With the rapid spread of the Zika virus, for instance, several journals signed a statement promising that scientists would not be penalized for immediately releasing their findings, given the potential benefit for public health, in turn prompting some scientists to ask, why draw the line at Zika?
Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Meryl for the tip.