Pre-prints are not new. Some pre-print servers such as arXiv have been going since 1991; however, there is increasing interest in the use of pre-prints as part of the move towards open access publishing and open scholarship in general.
What are they?
Pre-prints are versions of your paper before it has been submitted to peer-review. The use of pre-print servers varies significantly between disciplines, being an embedded and well known practice in areas like Physical Sciences, and almost unheard of in others.
Why should I bother?
Posting a pre-print on a specific pre-print server or repository means your work has the potential to reach other researchers in your discipline and citations can accumulate, earlier. It is also useful to gather early feedback on the paper from your peers, before the official peer-review process of the journal you submit to.
Will my paper be scooped?
Contrary to some fears, pre-prints can actually help protect your work from being ‘scooped’. Most servers register the papers on receipt enabling you to establish provenance should another very similar paper be published after yours. Many pre-print servers enable you to add a DOI allowing you to keep track of your paper and its citations.
Swansea University researchers are not restricted from using preprint servers by the institution. Individual researchers considering submitting a paper do need to check the funder and journal to see if any restrictions apply. This can be done using SHERPA/ Romeo and searching the journal you are considering submitting to.
As stated above, there are preprint servers for different disciplines and institutional repositories can host preprints. The benefits of submitting preprints in terms of citations, engagement and impact will not materialise unless the author/college publicise the paper themselves especially in disciplines which are only just starting to use pre-print servers.
ISS Research Support are happy and able to assist researchers with information regarding journal restrictions, and which pre-print server may be most appropriate. We have a list of pre-print servers and open access repositories here.