Preprints, or draft research papers that are shared publicly before they’ve been peer reviewed, are becoming increasingly popular among researchers. Preprints let you share your work more quickly and communicate your findings as soon as they’re ready. However, preprints are often considered “unvalidated” because they haven’t gone through peer review or been vetted by outside experts. This is a cause of concern for many, including readers who want to focus only on high-quality preprints and researchers like you who want their posted preprints to be taken seriously (scientists are skeptics, after all!).
Adding a badge is one way to certify your preprint and thus address possible skepticism. Badges are virtual “stamps” signifying that a paper has passed certain quality checks, and they can benefit authors, readers, and science as a whole, thus enhancing the preprint environment. Here are our top 3 reasons to add a badge to your preprint.
1. Demonstrate to others that your manuscript meets the standards for sound science
One of the key hallmarks of sound science is reproducibility, or “the ability of a researcher to duplicate the results of a prior study using the same materials and procedures as were used by the original investigator” (as described in this report by the National Science Foundation’s Subcommittee on Replicability in Science). Earning a specific badge in reporting standards signals to readers—as well as to journal editors (including “preprint editors”) and peer reviewers—that your manuscript includes sufficient information about the study design, materials, procedures, and analysis methods for others to reproduce your experiment. Such a badge benefits you by increasing your paper’s credibility and benefits science as a whole by allowing others to replicate your experiment if they so choose.
2. Improve the quality of your manuscript prior to peer review
Earning a badge is also a great way to receive a straightforward quality assessment of your manuscript before a journal’s official peer review step. Incorporating the results of the assessment can help you improve your paper prior to peer review or even prior to selecting a journal. It can also help facilitate subsequent steps. For example, if any issues brought up during the badge assessment are ones that peer reviewers would have raised, addressing them before submission (while earning a badge) could save you valuable time between peer review and publication.
3. Obtain feedback in specific areas that might not be addressed by peer reviewers
Posting a preprint in general can be a good opportunity to get feedback from the scientific community, but adding a badge can ensure that you gain feedback in particular areas that might not be considered by peer reviewers adequately (or at all). For example, while some journals have specific review steps for statistics, many do not. Thus, in many cases, statistical rigor (and other aspects of quality) can be overlooked by peer reviewers due to human error, greater focus on other aspects of the paper, or limitations in the reviewers’ personal expertise. In a 1998 paper in Statistics in Medicine, Douglas Altman (an English statistician with almost half a million citations) summed up the problem as follows: “...the majority of statistical analyses are performed by people with an inadequate understanding of statistical methods. They are then peer reviewed by people who are generally no more knowledgeable.”
The process of earning a statistics-related badge (which involves expert review) can help you identify and address any issues that might be missed so that you can produce the best manuscript possible.
As a reader, you may be wondering how you can recognize quality preprints—and as a researcher, you may be wondering how you can signal to others that your preprint is indeed worth reading (and publishing!). Certifying your preprint by adding a badge can help you demonstrate the soundness of your research to readers, improve your paper before peer review, and obtain feedback on various topics, thus allowing you to contribute to a higher-quality preprint environment.
Date of Publication: 6-03-2020