what we mean when we talk about preprints

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Cameron Neylon, Damian Pattinson, Geoffrey Bilder, and Jennifer Lin have just posted a cracker of a preprint onto biorxiv.

On the origin of nonequivalent states: how we can talk about preprints

Increasingly, preprints are at the center of conversations across the research ecosystem. But disagreements remain about the role they play. Do they “count” for research assessment? Is it ok to post preprints in more than one place? In this paper, we argue that these discussions often conflate two separate issues, the history of the manuscript and the status granted it by different communities. In this paper, we propose a new model that distinguishes the characteristics of the object, its “state”, from the subjective “standing” granted to it by different communities. This provides a way to discuss the difference in practices between communities, which will deliver more productive conversations and facilitate negotiation on how to collectively improve the process of scholarly communications not only for preprints but other forms of scholarly contributions.

The opening paragraphs are a treat to read, and provide a simple illustration of a complex issue. They offer a model of state and standing, that provides a clean way of talking about what we mean when we talk about preprints.

There are a couple of illustrations in the paper of how this model applies to different fields, in particular, physics, biology, and economics.

I think it would be wonderful to extend this work to look at transitions in the state/standing model within disciplines over time. I suspect that we are in the middle of a transition in biology at the moment.

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