Peer review in a post-eprints world: a proposal

J Med Internet Res. 2000 Jul-Sep;2(3):E14. doi: 10.2196/jmir.2.3.e14.


Recently, a number of electronic biomedical preprints servers, which allow the archiving of electronic papers without prior peer review, have been established, most notably the Clinical Medicine & Health Research NetPrints website and the The Lancet's Electronic Research Archive. These mark an extension to clinical medicine and health research of a novel experiment in the provision of public access to electronic versions of preprints. However, until now the biomedical community has been slow to adopt this new form of communication. This paper discusses how the value and attractiveness of eprint servers can be improved, and how electronic preprints (eprints, NetPrints) can be evaluated. Previous studies of variations in rejection rates after conventional peer review have indicated that the extent of scholarly consensus is an important variable for acceptance. This variable seems likely also to be important in readers' and editors' evaluations of eprints. A combination of unsolicited comments together with commissioned review might yield articles of higher quality than either could accomplish alone. However, if systematically applied to all eprints, such a process would be time-consuming and labor-intensive. A sequential review process is proposed, beginning with the acceptance of a preprint by an eprint server, followed by revision on the basis of comments received publicly or privately, and by the solicitation of selected eprints for commissioned review. This sequential process could have advantages, both for the authors of articles, and for journal editors. For example, the eprint would, in effect, have been submitted simultaneously to a large number of relevant journals. Some issues about evaluative studies of the outcomes of eprint submissions are also considered briefly. It would be particularly valuable if every eprint server included access to comparative statistics on visits by readers to individual eprints.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Humans
  • Internet / trends*
  • Peer Review / methods
  • Peer Review / trends*
  • Publishing / trends
  • Research / trends