Video Tip of the Week: BioRxiv, A preprint server for biology

 Open access to scientific research has been advocated for a long time, even before the advent of the internet. With the internet, the movement grew. Many open access journals, NIH now requires NIH-funded research to be open access within a year of publication, NSF and other agencies are working on similar plans.

A part of that movement to open access to research, “preprint” has also grown. The preprint of scientific research allows for the fast dissemination of research and the open discussion of results before they’ve gone through peer review. Peer-reviewed research can take weeks, months and sometime years to be publicly disseminated through publication. In a modern world of fast-developing and changing science, preprint distribution allows for a much faster access to research

The most well-known preprint server is arXiv. Started in 1991 at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and moving to Cornell University Library, arXiv allows for the open access preprint dissemination of physics, mathematical and computer science research. By many standards, it has been a success in getting research quickly and openly discussed.

There have been previous attempts for such biological research preprints in the past and currently: Nature Precedings (which ceased accepting new manuscripts in 2012), PeerJ Preprints and others.

That a traditional publisher such as Nature (Nature Precedings) had made a foray an open access preprint repository, goes to the need and demand for such as service. The rise of biological research preprints in arXiv has grown rapidly.biorxiv Just last year, a case was made in PLOS Biology for just such a server for life sciences research by Desjardins-Proulx et al.

The first and most often discussed advantage of open preprints is speed. The time between submission and the official publication of a manuscript can be measured in months, sometimes in years. For all this time, the research is known only to a select few: colleagues, editors, and reviewers. Thus, the science cannot be used, discussed, or reviewed by the wider scientific community. In a recent blog post, C. Titus Brown noted how posting a paper on arXiv quickly led to a citation (arXiv papers can be cited), and his research was used by another researcher. The current system of hiding manuscripts before acceptance poses problems for both scientists and publishers. Manuscripts that are unknown cannot be used and thus take more time to be cited. It has been shown that high-energy physics, with its high arXiv submission rate, has the highest immediacy among physics and mathematics.

And now we have it. Above you will find the promo video for a new life sciences open access preprint server: bioRxiv. Science has a introductory post about it from November 2013 (2 days after it was announced).

Like arXiv, bioRxiv is housed and run by Cold Spring Harbor. LIke arXiv, it is open access, preprint and has similar rules. You can learn more about the specifics (such as journal preprint policies) on the about page. Articles can be in most any life sciences topic from biochemistry to zoology, and other fields, such as physics, if the research has direct relevance to life science. It will not, however, publish medical research such as clinical trials.

Articles are placed into three categories:

Articles in bioRxiv are categorized as New ResultsConfirmatory Results, orContradictory ResultsNew Results describe an advance in a field. Confirmatory Results largely replicate and confirm previously published work, whereasContradictory Results largely replicate experimental approaches used in previously published work but the results contradict and/or do not
support it.

The biological research community has asked for it, and here it is. Currently, there are only 200 or so manuscripts submitted, a quick search of ‘retrovirus‘ brings up only 3 results. But, bioRxiv is only 6 months old. Keep an eye on it, better yet, test it out and submit.

Quick Links:



Desjardins-Proulx, P., White, E., Adamson, J., Ram, K., Poisot, T., & Gravel, D. (2013). The Case for Open Preprints in Biology PLoS Biology, 11 (5) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001563

4 thoughts on “Video Tip of the Week: BioRxiv, A preprint server for biology

    1. Mary

      I’ll tell Trey–I just realized this got posted under my name and so he didn’t see the message. Thanks!

  1. Trey Post author

    Thank you for the correction Casey. I had CSH on my mind :D.. starts with a “C”… :D


  2. John Inglis

    Thanks for this article about bioRxiv and for correcting the attribution of arXiv. This morning, bioRxiv posted its 357th manuscript. 134 of them have been revised at least once.

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