The use of preprints in biology has thrived over the last few years. While scientists in the life sciences rarely posted preprints just 10 years ago, many groups now regularly share their latest papers on a preprint server. And of course, attention to preprints exploded in the context of COVID-19, highlighting the value of preprints as a mechanism to promptly disseminate the latest research findings.
To work toward our mission to make communication in the life sciences more open and transparent, ASAPbio promotes the productive use of preprints. We recognize that many researchers have become familiarized with preprints by hearing about them from colleagues or by finding a preprint reporting the latest work by a leader in their field. These researcher-to-researcher interactions are invaluable to raise awareness about preprints. To foster more of these conversations, ASAPbio started a Fellows program in 2020.
The Fellows program provides a deep-dive into preprints for researchers and others involved in science communication who want to learn more about preprints, preprint servers and preprint review. The program provides information on trends and practices in the preprint space, but importantly it also empowers participants to drive conversations about preprints with others in their research group, institution and research community.
The ASAPbio Fellows drive broad engagement with preprints
Over the last three years, the ASAPbio Fellows program has engaged 90 participants in conversations and activities about preprints. We want to enable Fellows to put what they learn into practice, so each year, the Fellows work on a dedicated preprint project, which may involve an initiative they wish to bring into action, or participating in one of ASAPbio’s strategic initiatives.
The Fellows can shape projects according to their interests and skills and, over different cohorts, they have accomplished a wide range of projects. A group of 2020 Fellows created our first set of preprint infographics and translated them to French, Spanish and Portuguese; this was complemented the following year by another group of Fellows who added additional infographics to the collection. Other Fellows worked on additional resources, for example, a training course about preprints and publishing, or ‘A guide to preprinting for early-career researchers’ (which, of course, was also preprinted).
Last year, as events started to come back to in-person formats, several of the 2022 ASAPbio Fellows decided to engage their communities by hosting local events at their institutions. The Fellows organized events at the National Center for Research in Sudan, the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania, and the University of Belgrade in Serbia. Another group of Fellows from India wanted to increase awareness about preprints in the Indian community and in collaboration with IndiaBioscience and Open Access India, they hosted an online workshop for Indian researchers. The program participants also produced a Preprint event toolkit, to help others conceptualize, prepare and deliver preprint events.
The input from the Fellows has also been crucial to deliver some of ASAPbio’s organizational activities. Several 2022 Fellows joined our ‘Publish Your Reviews’ campaign, which seeks to encourage reviewers to post their reviews alongside the preprint copy of the article they have reviewed. The Fellows supported promotion of the campaign and hosted two online events to increase awareness about the initiative.
Also in the context of preprint review, ASAPbio coordinated collaborative group reviews on cell biology and biochemistry preprints posted on bioRxiv; a group of 2022 Fellows developed their peer review skills by contributing feedback on the papers and synthesizing the preprint reviews for public posting - you can find these public reviews on our Sciety group.
Another group of Fellows was interested in supporting the use of preprints to share a broad range of outputs with the scientific community, and organized a competition calling for the submission of preprints that report a negative/null or inconclusive result as the main finding. We are in the process of reviewing entries to the competition and will announce the winners in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
Engage with preprints & preprint review – become a 2023 ASAPbio Fellow
We will offer the 2023 ASAPbio Fellows a wide range of opportunities to contribute to ASAPbio activities, but we also very much want to hear what project ideas community members bring. The 2023 ASAPbio Fellows program is now open for applications and we invite all interested in preprints and science communication to apply. There are no restrictions related to geographical location or career stage. We just ask you to bring an interest in preprints and availability to give the program a few hours per month from April to November 2023. In exchange, we’ll share information about preprints and the broader open science landscape, and provide opportunities to share experiences, build communication skills, and network with others interested in bringing positive change to science communication.
Interested? Apply now to become a 2023 ASAPbio Fellow! You can read more about the program in the Fellows program Handbook, or feel free to contact me with any questions. Applications are open until 24 March.