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A new age for scientific publishing

The pharmacologist Robert Grosse explains why research is being published even prior to review

Freiburg, Nov 16, 2020

“Publish or perish:” It is important for scholars to publish as many peer-reviewed studies as possible in scientific journals. It is a sign of quality control. Publishing on social media platforms or in preprints, however, has become a rising trend today. What are the advantages of this change towards a more open approach to science and what are the challenges? In an online panel discussion of the Cluster of Excellence CIBSS - Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies on November 23, 2020, scientists and experts will discuss how this development in publishing influences and changes the processes of knowledge. The participating pharmacologist Prof. Dr. Robert Grosse from Freiburg is one of them. He previously explained to Annette Kollefrath-Persch which advantages and disadvantages he sees in the new methods of scientific publishing.

Research in scientific journals: It can take up to two years from article submission to its publication. Photo: Peter Mesenholl

Mr. Grosse, what distinguishes a scientific publication in the preprint version from the final published version?

Robert Grosse: For me as a researcher, the decisive difference is the quality control that is still missing in a paper appearing in preprint. I know from my own experience that the reviewers always make corrections, and often they find important errors. And if this control is missing, statistical errors, for example, can easily occur in a publication. As a result, papers of fantastic quality or even faulty ones can be found on the preprint servers. It is ultimately up to the readers to differentiate between the two.

Robert Grosse relies on quality control, which results when experts review a paper before publication. Photo: Jürgen Gocke

What is the advantage of publishing a paper in the preprint version? How do you approach it?

Thanks to the preprint option, we researchers can quickly make our findings visible within our community, as preprint versions are now considered quotable. After all, the usual process until the results are finally published takes a long time. The review process can take one to two years from submission to the final version. Therefore, there are many fans of preprint publication among researchers. I may not necessarily be one of them, although I have published like this recently.

Is there also pressure on scientists to publish in the fastest possible way?

That is surely one reason for the preprint-boom. However, it is also clear that the preprint versions reveal scientific ideas and approaches to the competition at an early stage before peer-reviewed publication. However, there are now also journals that want researchers to agree from the outset to publish their results in preprint. My impression is that in this case the editors want to look at how many “likes” the paper reaches, i.e. how popular the topic is - which I don't think is a good idea.


Digital panel discussion

The panel discussion, which will be held in English, begins on November 23, 2020 at 7pm. Registration is not required because the panel discussion will be livestreaming on Youtube and Panopto. Viewers can pose their questions in the chat room.

For more information about the panel discussion

Live-stream YouTube

Live-stream Panopto