Open Access

For this assignment I’ve chosen to write my response about bioRxiv (pronounced bio-archive). bioRxiv is run by Cold Spring Harbor Lab, out of Cold Spring Harbor NY, which is a non-profit research institution. Unlike open access journals this is a free archive for unpublished preprints. That means they are not yet peer reviewed, and they only check for non-scientific content or plagiarism, or threats to health etc.

They state their purpose as:

“By posting preprints on bioRxiv, authors are able to make their findings immediately available to the scientific community and receive feedback on draft manuscripts before they are submitted to journals.”

I really appreciate bioRxiv, and my colleagues in my lab and I share papers uploaded here all of the time. They do not specifically talk about open access, but I think the quote above states it well. First, it is to make findings immediately available (and citable), before the time it would take to make it through publication. I think this can be beneficial for many reasons. It can help get results out there to everyone almost immediately once a manuscript is put together. I think this is not only open access in terms of bandwidth, but also in terms of speed. Some journal articles become free after a period of time (sometimes years), and this allows an individual to potentially find a preprint of the data published in that article before they would have access to a peer reviewed journals.

Additionally, they are working to create a platform to allow for general peer review from the scientific community, which I think is another really important aspect. Instead of all criticism coming from a handful of reviewers for a journal, you can open it up to the community and the community can see other criticism. I don’t often see an extremely thorough review of papers uploaded, but I think it also removes somewhat of the black box between a reader and what reviewers may have thought.

An obvious criticism is that without peer review, the open access science could be false. While this is true, I think there are a few measures in place. The first being that bioRxiv is a widely used tool, and I think it would require a lapse in judgement to post false information on it. The second is that comments and review happen in the open, allow readers to see what other experts may say about the paper, unlike what goes on behind closed doors before a paper is published in a journal, and finally, revisions can be uploaded as well to bioRxiv, so mistakes can be fixed and versions can be updated. Overall, I think it is a great open access tool for publications.

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