The rise of preprints

Researchers are increasingly eager to make use of preprints, so we have made them available through Scopus

By Gregg Gordon - September 24, 2021
research collaboration image
Making preprints available on Scopus could make it easier to identify potential collaboration partners, read the most recent work of other researchers, and demonstrate impact to funders. (Photo © istock.com/skynesher)

Preprints have been growing in popularity and volume for some time, a trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic which has brought them firmly into the spotlight.

Over the past five years at Elsevier, we’ve seen a 148% rise in the number of researchers publishing preprints on SSRN – our world-leading early stage research and preprint platform. That’s a significant increase. But we’re not just seeing more being published. Engagement is rising too. Over the same period, we’ve seen a 50% increase in the number of downloads of preprints on SSRN, with downloads hitting almost 18 million at the end of 2020.

Why are preprints becoming so popular?

A complement to journal publication, preprints allow the research community to share information or indicative results, indicate a direction of travel for a project, and help other researchers in similar fields.

Preprints are also a positive way for early-career researchers to receive feedback ahead of submitting articles to journals.

As evidence of how important they are becoming, we’re seeing preprints increasingly included in formal evaluation processes for grant proposals and faculty reviews.

Prof Mark Kamstra, PhDDr Mark Kamstra, Professor of Finance in the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto, summed up the importance of preprints for his research:

Much of the work I do is closely related to work-in-progress of other scholars. Without SSRN preprints, I would be blind, potentially replicating other scholar’s efforts – running alongside instead of standing on the shoulders of giants. With preprints, I can accurately cite other authors, find people to invite to give a talk, etc.

Preprints now cover more diverse research topics

We’re also seeing preprints published across a greater breadth of sectors. The disciplines which have seen the highest growth rate in preprint submissions over the past year are economics, financial economics and medical research.

The rise in medical research preprints comes at a time when the scientific response to the COVID-19 pandemic has driven a need for rapid, open-platform science. Preprints have played a crucial part in advancing the understanding of SARS-CoV-2.

Prof Amitrajeet A Batabyal, PhDResearchers have told us that easier access to preprints is important to them. For example, Dr Amitrajeet A Batabyal, the Arthur J. Gosnell Professor of Economics at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, said he needs to be able to “access the latest research in these fields quickly and preferably electronically.”

This is why Elsevier has made preprints on SSRN dating back to 2017 available through Scopus, following the indexing of arXiv, ChemRxiv, bioRxiv and medRxiv preprints earlier this year. Preprints will be available only in Scopus Author Profiles that already have a peer-reviewed publication history.

We’re excited by this evolution in our services. We believe it will benefit researchers by improving the discoverability of SSRN content, making it easier to identify potential collaboration partners, read and assess another researcher’s most recent work, and demonstrate impact to funders through early forms of scholarly output.

Contributors


Gregg Gordon
Written by

Gregg Gordon

Written by

Gregg Gordon

Gregory J Gordon holds dual roles for Elsevier: Managing Director of SSRN and Knowledge Lifecycle Management. SSRN is a leading open access multidisciplinary online repository focused on providing "Tomorrow’s Research Today" for early-stage scholarly research. Since joining Elsevier in 2016, SSRN has grown to 70 discipline-based research networks with nearly 1 million papers from more than 500,000 authors. Users have downloaded over 150 million papers to date. The Knowledge Lifecycle role looks at how content should flow between product silos, and how to bridge the gap between Elsevier and other organizations.

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