EPRINTS = PREPRINTS (unrefereed) + POSTPRINTS (refereed)

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2006 19:40:14 +0100

    Prior AmSci Topic Thread:
    EPRINTS = PREPRINTS (unrefereed) + POSTPRINTS (refereed)

On Fri, 21 Jul 2006, [identity deleted] wrote:

> Dear Dr Harnad,
> I read with great interest your paper 'Maximizing research impact
> through institutional and national open-access self-archiving
> mandates'. http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/12093/
> I was left wondering what is the best time to make
> available online one's research: is it wise to wait until you know the
> paper has been accepted for publication or is it better to put online
> even papers just submitted for publication?

It varies with the field or even with the paper. Some disciplines (like
high energy theoretical physics and economics) find it useful to post
their pre-refereeing preprints; others prefer to wait till the final
draft has been refereed, revised and accepted for publication
(postprint). In general, preprint posting is more important in rapid-uptake,
swiftly-evolving fields, to get results out as soon as possible so they
can be used and built upon as soon as possible: Tim Brody has reported
that with early self-archiving, usage and citations also occur earlier,
and that means an accelerated research cycle and more research progress.
But of course this has to be balanced against the need to ensure that
the findings one is attempting to build upon are sound -- and that's
what peer review is for.


In general, I would say researchers know (or can learn) to distinguish
between unrefereed preprints and peer-reviewed postprints, and can be
trusted to use judgment on what to trust and what not. The only real
risk is excessive haste toward applications in certain areas of clinical
biomedicine where public health is at risk, but there too, practitioners
should be able to discern the difference between what has and has not
been validated by peer review.

> I have noticed that in economics many researchers put online their
> 'working papers'. Are there any reasons why one should not hurry and
> wait until the paper gets accepted?

I would say the only cases in which one might prefer to wait are where
one fears that there may be errors in one's work that might either
make one look foolish or might endanger health, and hence should not
be made public till they have been carefully reviewed by experts. The
rest can be entrusted to the user's knowledge of the difference between
validated and unvalidated results.

(I always post both preprints and postprints.)

Stevan Harnad
Received on Fri Jul 21 2006 - 19:54:22 BST

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