Preprints Transform Most Papers into Immediate Open Access with Higher Citation Rates

Online preprint servers allow researchers to quickly disseminate work freely without compromising copyrights. While making new research easy to find, download, and cite, preprint servers also establish primacy and the versioning record.

Preprints qualify for this treatment because the manuscript has not yet been submitted to, accepted by, or revised in any way by a publisher, and the copyright is held by the author(s). Most, but not all, publishers now approve of preprint servers. To be certain that your planned journal permits preprint publication, check it using the SHERPA/ROMEO tool in advance!

A. Preprint
B. Postprint
C. Final Publisher Version
  • Author original in Word or text
  • Ready for submission to publisher
  • No corrections made
  • Author holds copyright
  • Accepted manuscript
  • Peer reviewed
  • Editorial corrections made
  • May still be in Word
  • Copyright may transfer
  • Formatted by publisher
  • Typeset by publisher
  • Edited, ready for publication
  • PDF format
  • Copyright may transfer


How does posting your work on a preprint server make it “open access?”

  • With no additional effort, your work is immediately discoverable in Google Scholar with no paywalls.
  • Preprints receive a permanent DOI, making them part of the freely accessible scientific record.
  • Piwowar confirms open access and preprint publications achieve up to 30% higher than average citation rates.

Additional benefits of preprints are not traditionally associated with open access:

  • Funders accept preprints as a citable product, with a unique DOI assigned to each version. As of May 2017, NIH encourages citing preprints in proposals and progress reports (NOD Notice NOT-OD-18-011).
  • Preprints fill a gap in current clinical knowledge. The need for the latest research is greatest during public health emergencies, when 12-month publisher embargoes can prevent critical research from reaching front-line clinicians. Johansson reported “the proportion of preprints including original data increased substantially from 7% for Ebola (2014-16), to 46% for Zika (2015-17).”
  • Preprints identify and invite discussion with collaborators worldwide by making your research freely available.
  • Some preprint servers, such as PeerJ Preprints and F1000Research, host “open peer review,” inviting valuable commentary before or as part of journal submission.
  • Both in-person and live-streamed journal clubs use preprints to help early career researchers learn the art of peer review. Online journal club communities using preprints include PREreviews and live-streamed PREreview Journal Clubs.
  • Finally, a large comparative study of preprints to their final published versions found “no significant differences” between the two, demonstrating that freely available preprints are an underutilized resource.

Where can preprint servers be found? Below are some federated preprint search tools, each linked to several reliable preprint servers:

  • HSLS MolBio’s bioPreprint searches six preprint servers.
  • OSF Preprints aggregates search results from 28 preprint servers in ten subject categories.
  • (Not part of PubMed) indexes preprints from nine servers.

For individual health sciences preprint servers and more resources, visit the HSLS Guide to Scholarly Communication: Publishing.

If you need assistance, contact Andrea Ketchum at  or 412-648-9757.

~Andrea Ketchum