Monday, October 21, 2013

A new pre-print server for biology: the bioRxiv

I've written a few posts in the past about the need for a pre-print server in biology, like the one that physics and maths have, in the arXiv, to speed up the rate of dissemination of information in science, and to help promote open access.  As a physicist by original training, posting my work before it is accepted or done has never seemed like a big deal - it is science after all, we're all wrong, all the time (but we're trying to get closer to the truth, AS A GROUP).

In my community, the theoretical (mathematical) oncology community, we have been able to get around the lack of a standard pre-print server as there is a quant-bio section to the current arXiv, but it is certainly not widely read, nor is it really what the folks at the arXiv want to support (but we thank them for doing so, mind you).  In fact, I once tried to get them to add a theoretical oncology section without success - prompting me to create Warburg's Lens - a discussion forum for pre-prints in math oncology.

With the advent of +PeerJ there has been at least one option, and another called CancerCommons has sprung up as well.  In the next several weeks, we'll have another option, the bioRxiv - run by the folks at Cold Spring Harbor - a highly respected biological institute in New York.  There have been a few attempts at this sort of thing before - Nature tried it once with its "preceedings", but it never took hold. I heard a rumor that this is because a lot of non-science was posted (thinly masked creationism and silly studies about herbal supplement pyramid schemes like Protandim).  So, the bioRxiv has a plan to prevent this:  they've asked a number of people to become "affiliates" whose job it is to screen the preprints to make sure that it is, at least, science.  There will be no judgement about merit, we're to leave that to the communities, but just to screen out non-science.  Anywho, I'll be splitting my pre-print posts between here and the physics arXiv from now on - depending on focus.  More clinical/biological papers will go to the bioRxiv, and more mathematical/methodological will go to the physics arXiv.  For Warburg's Lens, I'll troll both...

I hope you check out the bioRxiv, and, if you are doing work in the biological sciences, I hope you consider posting your work here as you submit to standard journals.  I did a poll recently on a friend's website, and found that the only thing really stopping biologists from posting was...  well...  NOTHING.  Mostly, it was habit and inertia.  So - let's change those.  Let's put our work out there early and often and let the scientific community do its thing!