Priority of discovery in the life sciences

Elife. 2016 Jun 16:5:e16931. doi: 10.7554/eLife.16931.


The job of a scientist is to make a discovery and then communicate this new knowledge to others. For a scientist to be successful, he or she needs to be able to claim credit or priority for discoveries throughout their career. However, despite being fundamental to the reward system of science, the principles for establishing the "priority of discovery" are rarely discussed. Here we break down priority into two steps: disclosure, in which the discovery is released to the world-wide community; and validation, in which other scientists assess the accuracy, quality and importance of the work. Currently, in biology, disclosure and an initial validation are combined in a journal publication. Here, we discuss the advantages of separating these steps into disclosure via a preprint, and validation via a combination of peer review at a journal and additional evaluation by the wider scientific community.

Keywords: peer review; post-publication peer review; preprints; priority; scientific publishing.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Science Disciplines
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Peer Review, Research / standards*
  • Publishing / standards*
  • Research*