ASAPbio : towards a Central Service for Preprints in the Life Sciences

(Source: ASAPbio-RFA)

Representatives from a number of funding agencies asked ASAPbio to develop a proposal describing the governance, infrastructure and standards desired for a preprint service that represents the views of the broadest number of stakeholders. To guide this effort, a group of funders have independently formulated a number of principles that will shape the Central Service.  Additionally, ASAPbio has released a Request for Applications for the development of a Central Service  for preprints in the life sciencesProposals are due on April 30, 2017


ASAPbio has released a Request for Applications for the development of a Central Service (CS) for preprints in the life sciences issued by ASAPbio.

This Request is open to all prospective bidders, and responses from interested parties able to deliver the services described HERE are encouraged

The proposal should include a budget, goals, milestones, implementation timeline and sustainability plan after 5 years of funding to bring an appropriate community-defined preprint CS into a stable, long-term service.

After independent reviewers select the preferred applicants(s), and pending commitment of funders, the CS is expected to launch in 2018.

Preprints - versions of research manuscripts posted online that have not yet undergone traditional peer review - 

could dramatically speed up communication within the biology community, and they could be used as interim evidence of productivity on fellowship applications—something particularly important for early career researchers, given how long it takes to get manuscripts published...

However, few biologists are using preprints right now, likely because they aren’t familiar with them and also because there are several barriers to their use… 

Moreover, preprints in the life sciences come from multiple sources, making them difficult to discover... 

Preprints represent a potential rich source of data but are difficult to read by humans and machines ...

Nevertheless, "doing nothing is not an option. The stakes are enormous…" (Rescuing Biomedical Research).

Preprints should be a starting point for innovation as they advance global knowledge and serve the public good. They should be collected, maintained and distributed by an archive that fulfills this mission.

Sharing of preprints provides researchers with a faster way to disseminate their work, establish priority of their discoveries, acknowledge funders’ contributions to research advancement, and obtain feedback. They also offer a more current understanding of an investigator’s work.

Since January 2017, Wellcome Trust has permitted researchers to cite preprints, or pre-peer reviewed manuscripts, in their grant applications and end-of-grant review reports.

ASAPbio scientist-driven initiative aims to remove barriers to the use of preprints in the life sciences, and not to mandate the use of preprints, to disrupt journals, or to eschew peer review.

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On 13 February 2017, 11 funders endorsed a set of principles for establishing a CS for preprints, and ASAPbio released an RFA to invite potential suppliers to apply to provide it.

These developments were covered in articles in NatureScience, and The Scientist, and more information can be found on the Wellcome TrustMRC, and NIH websites. ASAPbio welcomes any thoughts or reactions through comments on the web or by email to [email protected]

Why Central Service (CS)?

At the ASAPbio Funders Workshop (held on the 24th May 2016) broad agreement was reached on the value of a CS for preprints. There was support for the view that a future CS would aggregate content from multiple sources (as bioRxiv, Peerj PreprintsChemRxivAgriXiv and future services) and provide new ways for researchers and machines to searchaccess and reuse this content. 

Following iterative discussions about the technical and organizational aspects of such a project, ASAPbio is now positioned to issue an RFA for the development of a CS for preprints. To guide this effort, a group of funders have independently formulated the following principles that will shape the CS. 

The CS would also have an archival function, ensuring long term, stable access to preprints. To help realise these different functions – archival, access, re-use etc. – there is assumption the CS would also convert all ingested preprints to a standard file format.

The CS will be a database that aggregates preprints from multiple sources, making them easier to read by humans and machines. These features will enable scientists to find new knowledge that can accelerate their research. The CS will be overseen by a scientist-led governing body, which will ensure its mission in serving the scientific community and the public good.

To help frame the proposal – and understand the intent of the Funders with regard to establishing a CS – the Funders have drawn up a number of principles and, in some cases, requirements, which will need to be adhered to as a condition of any future funding.

Developing a CS for Preprints: overarching principles

Principle 1

The CS must have an independent governance structure

Principle 2

The CS should seek to secure widespread community support

Principle 3

Content in the CS should be open and meet scholarly standards

Principle 4

Where possible, the CS should make use of and build on existing infrastructure, services and good practice

Principle 5

Any new code to build the CS should be open and interoperable

Principle 6

Access to the CS must be free at the point of use

Principle 7

The CS must be easy to use

Principle 8

The CS must have a sustainable model

Full description of these Principles and Funders supporting them could be consulted HERE

The funders are interested in getting additional funding bodies and research performing organizations to endorse these Principles. If you represent such an agency and are interested in signing on to these principles (or would like to discuss this matter), please contact Robert Kiley, Development Lead, Open Research at the Wellcome Trust ([email protected]).

HERE you can read about Benefits of a CS and explanation of parties contributing to the CS for Preprint.


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