Preprints, Publishing Models and Citation Advantage

Model differences between publishing venues likely affect the presentation and visibility of research papers.

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That the growing prominence of preprints, such as in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, has also significantly affected the manner in which the paper abstracts are worded follows from the study of  Frédérique Bordignon, Liana Ermakova and Marianne Noel (2021). More broadly, their findings suggest that Open-Access-first formats, e.g., preprints, that provide access to output that meets basic scholarly requirements but has not been submitted to peer review yet are not tantamount to publishing models, e.g., those of scholarly journals, the practices of which have evolved in closed-access environment and in their editing, review and other practices ensure the maintenance of quality standards.

In this respect, while scholars around the world are increasingly motivated to take recourse to preprints, it is not necessarily free access to scholarly output that is bound to lead to citation advantage, as the preliminary findings of Nicholas Fraser, Philipp Mayr, and Isabella Peters (2021) indicate. On the one hand, only validated, peer-reviewed research results can be expected to lead to growing exposure in the academic community. On the other hand, the amenability to social media sharing, such as that of preprints, does not necessarily constitute a career advancement asset, especially for early-career researchers that have been found to be less inclined to publish in the preprint format than their later-career counterparts (Fraser, Mayr and Peters, 2021).

Thus, it is not surprising that Janavi Kolpekwar and Vinod Shidham (2021) have found that, in biological sciences, Open Access journals are associated with a significant citation advantage in comparison to both closed-access venues and closed access journals with free access options, since Open Access journal publishing models combine peer review procedures with unfettered access to their contents. This is not the case for closed-access models, the sustainability of which is based on paid access via subscriptions or one-time fees. The latter also prevent the systematic deployment of free access to their contents, as that would undercut their revenue streams.

In other words, Open Access articles can be expected to receive more citations than either closed- or free-access papers, because they undergo academic editing, receive peer feedback and present finalized conclusions without access restrictions. Though preprints tend to give access to empirical findings, which are not likely to change, the wording of published articles can be expected to show more editorial and scholarly input. In contrast, one can assume that Open Access journals draw more attention across their archives, than closed-access ones, due to their publishing model differences.   


Bordignon, Frédérique, Liana Ermakova, and Marianne Noel. "Over‐promotion and caution in abstracts of preprints during the COVID‐19 crisis." Learned Publishing (2021).

Fraser, Nicholas, Philipp Mayr, and Isabella Peters. "Motivations, concerns and selection biases when posting preprints: a survey of bioRxiv authors." bioRxiv (2021).

Kolpekwar, Janavi A., and Vinod B. Shidham. "Impact of cytopathology authors work: Comparative analysis based on Open-access cytopathology publications versus non-Open-access conventional publications." CytoJournal, 18 (2021).

Featured image credits: School of Biological Science, UK, October 31, 2015  | © Courtesy of  Andrew Gustar/Flickr.

Pablo Markin

Community Manager, Open Research Community