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Understanding Preprints

Patrycja29 April 2020

A preprint is a draft version of a research paper that’s posted on a public server, often at the same time as it’s sent for peer review. By definition a preprint is not peer-reviewed, but some open access journals, including UCL’s own megajournal, UCL Open: Environment, UCL Child Health Open Research and Wellcome Open Research publish preprints as part of an open peer-review process. You can post your manuscript as a preprint instantly, allowing you to communicate new research and share results quickly without having to wait for the peer-review process to be completed.

Preprints can be critical in public health emergencies like the COVID-19 and Ebola pandemics. That’s why the Wellcome Trust’s new open access policy requires preprints to be published where there’s a “significant public health benefit”.

UCL encourages authors to use disciplinary preprint servers. Then, once your manuscript has been accepted for publication in a journal, upload it to RPS: that’ll mean that it’s made available in UCL Discovery, UCL’s open access repository, and can be submitted to the REF.

Have a look at this short video by ASAPbio (Accelerating Science and Publication in biology), explaining the origins and history of preprints, and how they work:

Benefits

Uploading your work to a preprint server allows you to make it available and get your results out there as quickly as possible, accelerating the communication process. It helps you get evaluation and feedback, and establish new collaborations. Preprints can help you build your portfolio and showcase your work: even if the paper isn’t subsequently accepted, the research has still been shared. Many funders, including the Wellcome Trust, now encourage researchers to cite preprints in grant applications and reports, so their effort isn’t wasted. Danny Kingsley, former Head of the Office of Scholarly Communications at Cambridge has written a brilliant overview of how preprints are being used in the COVID-19 world, and what you should watch out for.

It’s pretty rare now for a journal to refuse to accept a submission that’s been published as a preprint, but you can check, either with the journal themselves or using Sherpa Romeo, which is a service that collates and outlines the policies of each journal. The Sherpa services are run by Jisc, and are frequently updated with the latest policies.

Some journals have embraced preprints as it makes it easier to build on early feedback and avoid resubmissions. Others have gone further and offer open peer-review, which is a great way to benefit from speedy publication as well as peer-review. If you can make your data open too, so your research is fully reproducible, that’s even better!

There are a wide range of preprint repositories out there including:

The Centre for Open Science hosts an aggregated collection of preprints from a range of verified services. If you are interested in using preprints for your work, have a look here first.

UCL researchers respond to COVID-19 pandemic

Patrycja21 April 2020

UCL researchers are accustomed to working across disciplines, with colleagues from many different institutions, to help address the biggest challenges facing the world today. It’s no different with the COVID-19 crisis – though now their work is in the public eye as perhaps never before.

UCL clinical academics have joined frontline medical staff in fighting the outbreak and UCL is providing resources for NHS medical staff. Our researchers are developing rapid tests and tracking systems for COVID-19 and are taking a prominent role in advancing public knowledge about the virus.

Many UCL academics are already releasing papers analysing the outbreak, case studies, predictions about the course of the pandemic and assessments of its economic, health and social implications. In a global crisis, public access to high-quality scientific information is critical. Some publishers have introduced special arrangements to make COVID-19 publications openly available during the pandemic. UCL authors also make their papers openly available UCL Discovery, UCL’s open access repository, where they are curated and kept open access in perpetuity.

In the first of what we hope will be a series of regular posts, we are featuring the latest outputs by UCL academics available in the repository.

A commentary by Diana Margot Rosenthal, Marcella Ucci, Michelle Heys, Andrew Hayward, Monica Lakhanpaul that analyses impact of COVID-19 on families experiencing homelessness: discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1009

Ali Zumla, from UCL Department of Infection, co-authored a paper that analyses imaging findings of the first two patients identified in Italy with COVID-19 infection: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10094977

Andrew Hayward from the Research Department of Epidemiology & Public Health, Sarah Beale from Institute of Health Informatics and Anne M. Johnson from the Institute of Global Health analyse the implications of social distancing to control the pandemic: discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1009 This article is also available on Wellcome Open Research –  a megajournal platform with open peer-review. 

Another article by Andrew Hayward, Sarah Beale and Anne M. Johnson on seasonality seasonality and immunity to laboratory-confirmed seasonal coronavirus is also available for open peer-review on Wellcome Open Research platform. The dataset supporting this article is available in UCL Discovery: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10093909/

Jayant Vaidya, Professor of Surgery & Oncology, has co-authored an article describing methods of reducing infection and rationalising workloads. It’s available in UCL Discovery here: discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1009

For more on COVID-19 research at UCL, please see our webpages here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/covid-19-research/