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Preprints come to life

A dedicated website for sharing biology papers before peer review leaves journals divided.

What are biologists so afraid of? Physicists, mathematicians and social scientists routinely post their research to preprint servers such as arXiv.org before publication, yet few life scientists follow suit.

A website that goes live this week is hoping to change that. The site, bioRχiv.org, launched by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press in New York, bills itself as “the preprint server for biology”. It will operate similarly to arXiv, with scientists depositing papers as soon as they are ready to share them, weeks or months before formal publication.

The site’s launch comes as biologists begin to embrace preprints (see Nature 488,19; 2012). ArXiv’s quantitative biology section, launched in 2003, has seen exponential gains in the past two years (see ‘Life sciences freed’). It is on target to attract more than 1,500 manuscripts this year, says Paul Ginsparg, a physicist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who started arXiv in 1991 and serves on bioRχiv’s advisory board. Meanwhile, the open-access journal PeerJ launched its own biology preprint server in April and has drawn some 90 submissions so far.

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