So, if you are a Physicist, or if you know a Physicist and are very patient, you’ve heard all about the arXiv, the preprint server that kicked off the open-access publication movement. If not, here’s what you need to know. The idea is that when you write up a paper, you post it online, where it becomes immediately and freely available to the world. If you revise, you can post the revised paper. And, even if you go on to publish the work traditionally, there will be a version out there that is not behind some journal’s paywall.
Most arXiv users do, in fact, go on to publish their work in traditional, peer-reviewed journals. But by posting to the arXiv first, you get your work out quickly. If you’re a naive idealist, this lubricates the flow and speeds the creation of knowledge. If you’re a paranoid careerist, it allows you to date-stamp your ideas to guard against being scooped.
While the arXiv has a “Quantitative Biology” section, preprint culture has never really taken hold in the Biology community the way it has in Physics. But here’s something that will maybe help to push things in the right direction: bioRxiv, Biology’s very own preprint server! The server features twenty-four sub-fields of Biology, and, as of this writing, Evolutionary Biology is WINNING with eight posted manuscripts.
If you’re worried about whether posting a preprint of your manuscript might interfere with your ability to publish in a traditional journal:
- Grow a pair of non-gender-specific gonads!
- Look into the pre-publication policies of various publishers here. (And, if you’re planning to publish somewhere that prohibits preprints, rethink your priorities, you collaborator!)
Now get to posting!