Background: The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the potential significance of preprints in a public health emergency, and now with their continued use, preprints are considered within the context of open research. Funders and publishers are establishing their position on the use of preprints, in grant applications and publishing models. The purpose of this scoping review was to review the current evidence on the use and acceptability of preprints by publishers, funders, and the research community throughout the research pathway.
Methods: A scoping review was undertaken with no study or language limits. The search strategy was limited to the last five years (2017-2022) to capture changes influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., accelerated use and role of preprints in research). The review included international literature, including grey literature. Two databases were searched: Scopus and Web of Science on 24 August 2022.
Results: 379 titles and abstracts and 193 full text articles were assessed for eligibility. Ninety-eight articles met eligibility criteria and were included for full extraction. For barriers and challenges, 26 statements were grouped under four main themes (e.g., volume/growth of publication, quality assurance/trustworthiness, risks associated to credibility and quality). For benefits and value, 34 statements were grouped under six themes (e.g., openness/transparency, increased visibility/credibility, open review process, open research, democratic process/systems, increased productivity/opportunities).
Conclusions: Opportunities for rapid dissemination using preprints means that best practices through policies and guidelines are required from journals, publishers, and funders, to ensure preprints become embedded into practice. Cautionary measures to maintain quality are needed, both to be transparent with the public and to maintain credibility within social media, so care is recommended when reading and digesting research from preprints. Transparent guidelines by journals and funders are required to articulate to academia the role and purpose of preprints compared to a peer reviewed journal publication.
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