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Streamlining chemistry preprints to peer review

Opinion | Researchers | Peer Review
Streamlining chemistry preprints to peer review

An interview with Marshall Brennan of ChemRxiv about how our upcoming partnership will support submissions to Hindawi’s open access journals.

ChemRxiv, the foremost preprint server for the chemistry community, is used by a growing contingent of academics looking to share their research ahead of formal publication. We hope that our new partnership will enable chemists to transition their work from preprint to published open access paper more easily than ever before.

Following the launch of Direct Journal Transfer, authors of preprints in ChemRxiv will be able submit their manuscript directly to any one of Hindawi’s ten participating chemistry journals and with only three clicks — with no need to reformat or reupload files, nor to re-enter article metadata. Journals taking part in the initiative include the broad scope Journal of Chemistry as well as field specific titles such as Advances in Polymer Technology and Bioinorganic Chemistry and Applications. A full list is provided at the bottom of this article.

Maintaining our commitment to support authors throughout the lifecycle of published research, this partnership with ChemRxiv will complement other trials we are currently running at Hindawi with preprints and preliminary research services, such as Morressier.

We spoke to Marshall Brennan, a former physical organometallic chemist who has overseen the development of ChemRxiv since its first year. He has worked to increase chemists' understanding of what Open Science can do for their research. He has personally handled 800+ preprints on the server and tweets for ChemRxiv via @ChemRxiv, and in a personal capacity via @Organometallica

Hi Marshall, you’ve worked on ChemRxiv since it started. Could you tell us a bit more about it? 

MB: Certainly! ChemRxiv has been a truly fascinating project to work on over the past three years. When we started, chemists were unusually reluctant to consider pre-publication dissemination like you find on a preprint server — despite arXiv.org having chemistry sections for nearly a decade, the subject never really took off there. By focusing on the chemistry community specifically and developing a platform that speaks to the needs of chemists in every facet of its approach, we’ve seen a huge increase in interest in not just preprints, but in Open Science as a whole from chemists who would not normally participate in these sorts of activities. But the proof is in the pudding: ChemRxiv today has posted more than 4,500 preprints which have been accessed collectively more than 10 million times, with upwards of 250,000 visitors to the site each day. The response to ChemRxiv has been incredible and we’re really excited to see what we can do to push the boundaries of open chemical publishing.

Tell us more about the partnership and why you are excited about it? 

MB: The partnership between ChemRxiv and Hindawi provides authors seeking to submit their work to a Hindawi journal of their choice a fast, convenient way to do so — in just three clicks. Hindawi's broad, open access portfolio is a great match for many of the subject areas ChemRxiv authors submit their work to, and so we expect many preprints to find excellent homes at Hindawi following peer review. Most importantly, this effort will help sustain ChemRxiv as a free-to-submit-and-read service to the community into the future. 

How does it benefit researchers in the chemistry community?

MB: In recent weeks we have seen just how important it is that key research topics are rapidly turned around and published. The use of a Direct Journal Transfer saves researcher time by eliminating redundant submission steps. Instead of submitting to ChemRxiv and then repeating the process from scratch to submit that preprint to Hindawi journals, authors can simply transfer their preprint directly in just three clicks. While the amount of time that is saved will vary by paper and journal, even saving ten minutes per paper, integrated over all the papers from a mid-sized university over the course of a year can add up to more than days worth of time to researchers that can be spent making new discoveries rather than navigating journal submission websites.

What do you see as the role of preprints in chemistry, now and in the future?

MB: Especially now, when researchers have limited access to their laboratories, I suspect that preprints will grow in importance as a part of the research life cycle that is somewhat “in progress” or “malleable”. By this I mean that sometimes there are useful findings in a chemistry lab that are part of a larger project but, for timeliness, it makes sense to communicate them sooner than it would take to complete the entire study. 

Take for example, a new reaction. Perhaps the reaction is really exciting, except that its products are racemic. Perhaps, rather than keeping the work entirely confidential until an enantioselective version of the reaction can be developed, the researchers can describe the racemic reaction on ChemRxiv. This can get the work into the hands of researchers who don’t need the enantioselective reaction right away, or perhaps get feedback on possible new experiments, applications or collaborations that the authors might not have thought about. Most importantly, though, these conversations happen much sooner than when the final, enantioselective reaction would appear in a journal and helps get chemistry research disseminated much closer to real-time.

Are there any downsides to moving to open science?

MB: The most important area that researchers need to be cognizant of their open science activities is when considering work that might be commercialized and/or patented. In many countries, including the US and UK, dissemination of work on a preprint server or similar open science platform constitutes disclosure and can complicate a patent application. In any case, researchers should consult their institution’s technology transfer department before discussing their research in any public forum if they intend to pursue commercial applications.

The partnership will run for three months as a pilot while we assess how it meets the needs of the chemistry community. We hope to extend it after this time, and encourage even more academics to publish their research in open journals.

The 10 participating journals are:

Advances in Polymer Technology

Bioinorganic Chemistry and Applications

Heteroatom Chemistry

International Journal of Analytical Chemistry

International Journal of Chemical Engineering

International Journal of Polymer Science

Journal of Analytical Methods in Chemistry

Journal of Chemistry

Journal of Nanomaterials

Journal of Spectroscopy

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