Preprint Abstracts On bioRxiv Increasing Faster Than MEDLINE Interview with:
Stelios Serghiou PhD student
Epidemiology and Clinical Research and
John P.A. Ioannidis, MD, DSc
Meta-Research Innovation Center
Stanford (METRICS), Stanford University
Stanford, California What is the background for this study?

Response: Preprints refer to versions of a manuscript prior to the one published in a peer-reviewed journal. Even though preprints have been very popular in disciplines such as physics and computer science for many years now, their use in biomedicine had been very limited. However, this seems to be changing since the establishment of bioRxiv in 2013. As such, we became interested in exploring what happens to preprints uploaded on bioRxiv and what is the impact of bioRxiv to the peer-reviewed literature in terms of attention received. What are the main findings?

Response: Our results confirmed that use of bioRxiv has been increasing exponentially and that almost half of preprints posted on bioRxiv get published in a peer-reviewed journal within a year. We went on to find that almost one in five preprints receives a very high Altmetric attention score – these scores quantify the amount of social media attention given to an article. Furthermore, articles in the peer-reviewed literature with a preprint appear to receive a higher Altmetric attention score and more citations than articles with no preprint, a pattern that persists over time. What should readers take away from your report?

 Response: Most preprints posted on bioRxiv will eventually get published and receive substantial social media attention. When they get published, they appear to receive more social media attention and more citations than counterparts with no preprint. We cannot claim that this association is causal, given our study design. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Preprints are becoming more popular in biomedicine and there are a number of yet unanswered questions in terms of how they should be used and what may be their eventual impact. For example, could medicine be transformed in the same way as physics in this regard and make preprints the mainstream, default option for communicating informaiton? Should it be transformed in such a way? How would preprints work for medical studies that have also major clinical and public health impact? Very few of the bioRxiv preprints were on studies that could have a significant clinical/public health impact, so one wonders whether communicating preliminary, non-peer reviewed results in preprints is the best approach. However, as a tool for maximizing transparency, it is probably a reasonable idea, provided that people understand that the information has not yet been assessed by peers. Furthermore, is also unclear how our results may change over time as biomedical preprints become even more popular. Regardless, at the moment, bioRxiv appears to facilitate a lot more than hinder scientific research. 

No relevant disclosures.


Serghiou S, Ioannidis JPA. Altmetric Scores, Citations, and Publication of Studies Posted as Preprints. JAMA.2018;319(4):402–404. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.21168

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Last Updated on January 24, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD