We’ve just submitted our latest paper to the preprint arXiv (you can read more on the arXiv and its history here). We have done this for every paper we’ve submitted so far as a group; a list of our papers are here. Such preprint archiving is not very common in biology, but is in some other academic communities (notably physics, where the arXiv was established). It is great to see a larger number of quantitative population genetics papers appearing there, hopefully that trend will continue.
Having papers on the arXiv has been a uniformly positive experience:
1) It is great getting comments -from a broad range of people- that you can act on. For example, at least one department is holding a journal club on one of our arXived papers.
2) It is a permanently free copy of our papers. These are available as soon as we’ve written them, instead of after a year (or multi-year) wait that can accompany some iterations of the review process.
3) It is really nice to send someone a manuscript and not have to tell them to keep it to themselves, which always seemed slightly silly to me.
4) People can cite our papers and write blog posts about our papers, e.g. as people have done about our latest paper (Blog posts: here, here, here and here). I’ll hopefully write one shortly about it.
5) It is fun that previous versions of our papers are available (often corresponding to previous journal submissions). That allows people to look back on previous versions and see how our arguments have changed in response to criticism and review. I suspect no one will care to do so with our articles, but it would be great if we could look back at the different versions of now famous articles.
I’m sure there are a tonne of other reasons, but these are the ones that spring to mind.
I, and I’m sure other people, have worried about being scooped and beaten to publication due our arXived papers. But really this is silly as we’ve usually given talks, posters, etc on them at big conferences, so the idea that people somehow don’t know about our work before it appears in print is ridiculous. It is far better to get work out, once you consider it worthy of publication, so it can be read and cited by others.
We will continue to submit our papers there. I’m not sure what we’ll do with papers that don’t fit that criteria of the quantitative biology arXiv, as Nature proceedings shut up shop. But I’m sure we’ll work something out, and we’ll continue to explore other ways to have an open dialog about our work.
Another biology blog on the joys of ArXiv http://ivory.idyll.org/blog/science-f-yeah.html