Presentation Open Access

Preprints: an opportunity for African science?

Penfold, Naomi C.

Presentation for WACCBIP annual conference 2019, July 24-26.

This slide deck includes slides adapted from those originally made by Jessica Polka ( and Michael Johansson (, and with resources contributed by ASAPbio ambassadors ( and the TRANSPOSE team (


Current innovations in research communication seek to improve research reproducibility and facilitate career progression by improving speed and transparency in life sciences and biomedical publishing. Collectively known as ‘open science practices’, these include efforts to publish all research outputs (protocols, data, code, resources) openly (open access), with less publication delay (preprints, open lab notebooks) and with greater transparency in peer review and research evaluation. While often grounded in the challenges faced and privileges held by researchers in the USA and Western Europe, such practices and innovations may also benefit scientists working in African institutions or inspire further innovation within Africa.

Researchers in Africa face the same pressure to publish in journals that meet international quality standards as their peers elsewhere. However, difficulties may arise when access to resources is constrained and with the emergence of predatory publishers. Given biomedical research addresses locally and nationally relevant health issues, we must also ask to whom this research needs communicating and how this can be done effectively. At WACCBIP, ‘open science practices’ could support researchers to demonstrate research productivity and quality, arrange collaborative resource allocation, and communicate the latest biomedical research findings to practitioners without delay.

As Associate Director of ASAPbio, a scientist-led non-profit organisation working to increase the productive use of preprinting in the life sciences, I come to share knowledge about the practicalities of preprints. I will demonstrate how preprinting works alongside traditional publishing and scientific peer review, consider the additional benefits it could bring to African researchers, and discuss risks, concerns and potential unintended consequences.

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