For years, publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal has served as the official announcement that a piece of research has entered the accepted body of scientific knowledge. However, chances are good that the data, method innovations, and preliminary conclusions contained in a scientific paper have been circulating among the researchers’ colleagues for a year or more before the paper is officially published. By the time a journal issue goes to the printing press, the research may have made significant progress beyond what the published papers document.
Preprints—published, non-peer-reviewed scholarly papers that often precede publication in a peer-reviewed journal—have been a part of science since at least the 1960s [Cobb, 2017]. ArXiv, arguably the most prominent preprint system, has served the physics, mathematics, and computer science communities for more than 25 years.