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A preprint is a draft of a scientific paper that has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. As peer review takes quite some time (publication delay is at least several months and sometimes exceeds a year), preprints are the medium of choice to communicate current results within a scientific community.
A postprint is a preprint after it has been peer-reviewed, revised and accepted for publication.
Until/unless they turn into peer-reviewed publications, preprints are usually not taken into account when making hiring or promotion decisions in academia. Also, preprints do not tend to be cited often. In citing references, most authors much prefer journal articles, which have passed peer review, have greater permanence, are canonically citable, and are easier for readers to find. (However, central preprint archives such as arXiv.org and institutional archives (or repositories) for both preprints and postprints are beginning to change this.)
For over a decade, preprints tend to have been made public on the web rather than by distributing paper prints. The term e-print, or eprint is frequently used for preprints or postprints that are available electronically. The term was roughly derived by analogy with pre-print (a pre-publication printed version of an article, etc), post-print (a printed version of an article made available to others after publication) and reprint (a post-print printed by the journal publisher and provided to the author).
Posting preprints was very prominent in theoretical high-energy physics and led to the creation of arXiv.org by Paul Ginsparg. As in some branches of physics, arXiv has already more importance as medium of communication than standard journals, it is considered one of the driving forces behind the currently ongoing trend against commercially published scientific journals (see there for details about this controversy). (Hence, David Mermin in 1992 described Ginsparg's creation as potentially "string theory's greatest contribution to science").
The preprint culture was also very prominent in computer science, and this resulted in a different slant on dissemination of scientific research (see Citeseer). The open access movement has tended to focus on distributed institutional collections of research and global harvesting and aggregation through search engines and gateways such as OAIster, rather than a global discipline base such as arXiv. E-prints can now refer to any electronic form of a scholarly or scientific publication, including journal articles, conference papers, research theses or dissertations, and sometimes the term is used as a generic description of scholarly or scientific research output, because these are usually to be found in merged (generic) collections, called open access repositories or eprints archives.
Online sources of preprintsEdit
- Eysenbach G. The impact of preprint servers and electronic publishing on biomedical research. Curr Opin Immunol. 2000 Oct;12(5):499-503 PDF
- Eysenbach G. Challenges and changing roles for medical journals in the cyberspace age: Electronic pre-prints and e-papers. J Med Internet Res 1999;1(2):e9 Full text
- Open access
- Electronic Preprints and Postprints, in Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science. Marcel Dekker.de:Preprint
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