How Research Square became one of Fast Company’s 95 Brands That Matter
Research Square was recently featured in Fast Company’s inaugural Brands that Matter list, which honored 95 companies and nonprofits that achieved relevance through cultural impact and the application of their missions and ideals.
Among the few other organizations named for this honor were Nike, IBM, Beyond Meat, Old Navy, McDonald’s, and Yeti. How did Research Square, a preprint server in the scholarly publishing industry, stand out amongst these well-known consumer industry giants?
Research Square received this honor for promoting speed, fairness, and usefulness of research in the scholarly community through its mission: to make research faster, fairer, and more useful.
Here we decouple the three key elements of Research Square’s mission, “faster,” “fairer,” and “more useful,” to explain how we are achieving relevance, impacting the scholarly culture, and ultimately how we are changing the way preprints are viewed.
Moving research faster
Preprints allowed the scientific community to advance science at unprecedented speeds. In most scientific disciplines, it takes months - and potentially even years - before a paper can be shared with the world. Preprints posted on Research Square take an average of just three days from submission to dissemination. This has made Research square - and other preprint servers - thousands of times faster than peer-reviewed publishing in terms of sharing research findings with the wider community.
Promoting fairer research
The peer-review process can be relatively opaque, depending on the journal. In general, the less transparency you see in a journal’s peer-review process, the less accountability there is with the peer reviewers. More than a year ago, Research Square launched a solution to this issue, called In Review, which integrates with participating journals and allows authors to simultaneously upload a preprint onto Research Square while submitting to a participating journal.
A key feature of In Review is an online dashboard with a peer-review timeline that allows authors to see the status of their article submissions during the peer review process. It instantly shows the status of articles as the manuscript goes through the steps of the peer-review process. Today, nearly 500 journals have been integrated into In Review with more on the way. Research Square’s timeline has brought a new level of openness and transparency to more than 2% of the world’s estimated 30,000 journals in existence, and it is projected that the platform will integrate nearly 7% of the world’s journals within the next two years.
Oftentimes, articles written by non-native English-speaking researchers are outright rejected by peer-reviewers, even though their science may be perfectly sound. Research Square helps level the playing field with free AI-based tools, like its language scoring and grammar check service that helps users ascertain the English-language quality of their work - and other author-focused services, like our digital and professional editing services and manuscript assessments that improve authors’ chances of getting published. These AI-based tools have helped improve more than 300,000 distinct manuscripts to date.
Making research more useful
The usefulness of preprints to researchers and clinicians responding to the pandemic has been undeniable. Research Square, along with other preprint servers, helped to get critical COVID-19 research to these scholars, clinicians, and other interested readers quickly, within days - as opposed to the months, or even years, it could have taken to appear in peer-reviewed journals.
Preprints allowed the world to benefit sooner from vaccines, better public health guidelines, and best treatment practices in hospitals. And while it's impossible to know for sure how many lives have been saved by shortening the delays between discovery and dissemination, that number is undeniably large.
Finally, we promote the usefulness of science by making preprints fully open access, unlike much of the world’s research, which remains behind subscription paywalls. By making the initial version of the manuscript freely open, preprints offer researchers a chance to review - and potentially utilize - their preliminary information before it potentially becomes subscription-based.
Research Square’s mission, to make research faster, fairer, and more useful, is more important now than it has ever been to researchers and the public at large; and the value of Research Square, and preprint platforms like it, is becoming increasingly clear. We help make science move more rapidly, in some cases saving lives in the process. We level the playing field by making research more transparent and by providing a voice for researchers, whether their works advance to peer-reviewed publication or not. And we made research more useful, providing a platform and tools that allow preliminary research to flow freely.
It was an honor to be recognized as a key agent of change, as well as for our accomplishments; and we look forward to making good on this honor well into the future.
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