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Preprints Could Be an Incentive for Open Collaboration Among Scientific Researchers

The recent threat of severe cutbacks to the NIH, which could still occur, was unnerving to scientific researchers. This makes the best case for opening other avenues of scientific research and development that can come together to streamline and facilitate the R&D process.

therapoidOne of the most important of these avenues will be Therapoid™, the OpenTherapeutics.net platform, which has created a space for international scientific collaboration to develop new drugs and medical therapies. The website and its platform will enable like-minded users engaged in similar research to work with other researchers in an open source environment. Collaborators can then pre-publish their results to a preprint server for publishers to access. The NIH’s new preprint policy could be the impetus for more collaboration in helping bring drugs and therapies to market more quickly and at lower cost.

The NIH has set a policy encouraging scientific investigators to use interim research products, such as preprints (scientific manuscripts that have been posted prior to completion of peer review), to speed the dissemination and enhance the rigor of their work. This policy notice clarifies reporting instructions to allow investigators to cite their interim research products and claim them as products of NIH funding.  The NIH announcement is a victory for biomedical researchers who have been supporting preprints as a means of sharing findings more quickly than waiting for a paper to go through formal peer review and appear in a journal.

The NIH policy “strongly encourages” those who hold grants from the NIH, to deposit their preprints in repositories that are easy to search. One of these public repositories would be Therapoid, which has the necessary policies about plagiarism, competing interests, misconduct and other hallmarks of reputable scholarly publishing that are rigorous and transparent. The platform does offer a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

The advantages of this sharing should eclipse researchers’ concerns about being scooped by the competition and about releasing medical findings that haven’t been vetted. Although some researchers have worried that journals won’t accept manuscripts that are already public, biology preprints, for example, are catching on. Proponents argue that they will speed the dissemination of research, help researchers get feedback on their work quickly, and allow young scientists to get credit for work that hasn’t yet been formally published.

As Jason Hoyt and Peter Binfield so aptly put it in their Scientific American article of April 3, 2013 – “Who Killed the PrePrint and Could It Make a Return?” – “In reality of course, science works through micro improvements and multiple errors and failures until something finally works – we just hate showing how the sausage is made. We’ve become paralyzed with the notion that showing incremental improvements and corrections hurts, rather than helps, our personal careers and science. We need to start facing our fears that early reports, possibly even incorrect conclusions, are somehow bad. If we recognize that they’re just that, drafts of possible science discoveries; and if we have a mechanism to support feedback and correction; and if we received credit for sharing in this way then it would be clear that by the sharing of these ‘works in progress’ we would all be better off as a result.”

Therapoid is certainly headed in the right direction.

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Open Therapeutics crowdsources orphan and dormant therapeutic intellectual properties (IP) to scientists around the world. The goal is pushing forward research that ordinarily would not generate a public value while particularly helping underserved scientists to collaborate.

How open science helps researchers succeed
Open access, open data, open source, and other open scholarship practices are growing in popularity and necessity. However, widespread adoption of these practices has not yet been achieved. One reason is that researchers are uncertain about how sharing their work will affect their careers. We review literature demonstrating that open research is associated with increases in citations, media attention, potential collaborators, job opportunities, and funding opportunities. These findings are evidence that open research practices bring significant benefits to researchers relative to more traditional closed practices.