A preprint is a complete version of a scholarly manuscript that has been openly shared but has not yet been published in a traditional academic journal.
They can also be referred to as working papers or discussion papers as this varies within disciplines.
Preprints are established practice in some disciplines, for example in physics, maths and astronomy; and emerging as common practice in other areas including in the biomedical and social sciences fields.
To facilitate open research practices, UKRI generally encourages the use of preprints across the research disciplines that they support, and several UKRI research councils actively encourage the use of preprints to help disseminate emerging research:
Watch this short introductory film for an overview of preprints and how they work.
Preprints - a UKRN animated primer (YouTube 3:07 mins)
For papers that do go on to appear in a journal, studies suggest that posting a preprint may have a positive effect on the citations and alternative metrics for the published article:
As well as the benefits, you also need to be aware of the possible downsides of preprints.
Publishing a preprint is, in the majority of cases, a stage on the journey to peer-reviewed publication. Many journals will happily consider articles that have been previously posted as preprints. However, some journals do consider preprints as prior publication. Authors can check whether their journal of choice allows preprint publication by looking up the journal’s policy in Sherpa/Romeo.
Preprints are commonly hosted on subject-specific preprint servers, which offer an online service that allow authors to upload, describe and disseminate preprints. Most disseminate works as freely available open access (OA) items with no barriers to access. The servers commonly do not charge fees to either authors or readers for using their service. They may be supported by an institution and/or the user community. One or two are owned and operated by commercial companies. You can find a list of preprint servers (also called repositories) at the bottom of this page.
Steps to follow:
It is considered best practice to link preprints and the final published work (the ‘Version of Record’), so if a work is later published, authors should ensure that the preprint record is updated with a DOI and a URL link to the Version of Record
Under current REF guidelines, (we need to continue with REF2021 until new guidelines for the next assessment are released), preprints are permitted as part of the REF submission:
“238. The funding bodies recognise that many researchers derive value from sharing early versions of papers using a pre-print service. Institutions may submit pre-prints as eligible outputs to REF 2021.”
If you want to submit a published version of your paper, the current REF Open Access policy guidelines require the deposit of the author accepted manuscript (AAM) that has been peer reviewed and a later version than a preprint. This means that if you deposit your work as a preprint, and then your paper is accepted for publication, you MUST still deposit your AAM into the CRIS by sending details to email@example.com.
Please contact your research support librarian (requires Cranfield login).