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.
Dr 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.
Researchers 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.
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