There is one other drawback to the arXiv that makes me, as a potential submitter, very nervous: being scooped.
A paper is “scooped” if someone else publishes the same (or very similar) concept before you get a chance to publish yours. But, wait, if it is on the arXiv, isn’t that documentation that I had the idea first? Well, yes, but… the arXiv isn’t commonly used in Biology yet, so it isn’t clear how important or how much priority will be given to authors who publish there before “traditional” peer review. This is especially concerning if the novelty of the paper is the idea (which is easy to reproduce with the same or different data) versus a method (which is more difficult to replicate). Maybe this isn’t a valid concern, because anonymous reviewers could, one might argue, just as easily “scoop” ideas from a manuscript they have reviewed. Furthermore, perhaps posting ideas/research early might facilitate more collaborations instead of competitions between research groups.
All said, I think that submitting to pre-print servers can be a very valuable tool for facilitating scientific discourse and advances. Will I start submitting there? ...
August 14, 2012
August 1, 2012
Last year when Dr. Joseph Pickrell posted Why publish science in peer-reviewed journals? at Genomes Unzipped many of the responses naturally turned to criticism of such a system which overturned the conventions of publication in biology. The critiques were fair enough, but my own confusion and irritation was with the fact that many seemed to pretend, or not know, about arXiv. It is perhaps true that biological sciences are different in some fundamental ways from physics, or even social sciences which put preprints up at SSRN. But it seems that any objection to the revolution in scientific production and dissemination which Dr. Pickrell proposed should at least grapple with the fact that physics, mathematics, computer science, economics, etc. continue to remain viable academic fields despite the fact that preprints circulate widely among scholars, and even to the general public.* Publication in a paper in these fields is often an after the fact stamp of approval, depending on the reception from the community of peers.
Though Dr. Pickrell’s dream has not come true as of yet, it is nice to see that he and other bold individuals are making a push to make arXiv more widely used ...
August 30, 2011
Derek Lowe asks “Why Isn’t There an ArXiv For Chemistry?” Where indeed. A few years ago I went to a talk given by Michael Eisen and asked him about why the biological sciences didn’t have an ArXiv, and one of his explanations was that intellectual property was more of a concern in this area (e.g., pharmaceutical funded research). That sounds plausible enough to me. But the existence of ArXiv still should serve as a starting point for people outside of the physical and mathematical sciences in terms of the possibilities. Much of the discussion around Joe Pickrell’s post ‘Why publish science in peer-reviewed journals?’ seemed to operate in a world where ArXiv didn’t exist. And it’s not just ArXiv, SSRN makes it easy to get papers in social science. We have the technology, and we see the possibilities. There are obstacles, but let’s not pretend as if we don’t have a model for some success.