Introducing PsyArXiv: Psychology’s dedicated open access digital archive

Contributed by David Barner, Benjamin Brown, and Alex Holcombe

PsyArXiv (PsyArXiv.com), psychology’s dedicated Open Access digital archive, launches today.

Today, PsyArXiv officially launches its open access digital archive, PsyArXiv.com, dedicated to psychological science. PsyArXiv joins a growing collection of online archives in fields including physics, biology, linguistics, and sociology, by providing a free, open access outlet for new findings in the psychological sciences.

According to Benjamin Brown, a developmental psychologist at Georgia Gwinnett College, “PsyArXiv makes new scientific knowledge accessible to all researchers, regardless of whether their universities have access to costly journal subscriptions. In an era that some describe as one of fake news and information bubbles, PsyArXiv gives the public free, first-hand access to new science, meaning that journalists, politicians, business leaders, and high school science teachers can all download the newest science and use facts to inform their decision making, and to fuel their natural curiosity about science.”

Like other scholarly archives such as Cornell’s original arXiv.org, PsyArXiv allows researchers to upload working papers, unpublished work, and articles currently under review (preprints), making them accessible to researchers and the public at no cost. PsyArXiv also permits researchers to share their work months or years earlier than usual, while also making it openly available to the public. PsyArXiv promises to create free, open access to psychological science, even for papers that are ultimately published in journals that are only accessible to subscribers.

Alex Holcombe, a cognitive psychologist and vision scientist at the University of Sydney, notes that PsyArXiv “allows researchers to get early feedback on their work from a larger pool of peers than through traditional journal processes. This both speeds science and leads to a better final product — a revised PsyArXiv entry, eventual journal publication, or both.”

PsyArXiv provides support for multiple versions of a file, within-browser rendering of manuscripts, inclusion of supplementary files, data, and code, appropriate metadata, and links to resulting journal articles including DOIs. PsyArXiv’s infrastructure is provided by the Center for Open Science, which also provides simultaneous search of PsyArXiv and other preprint services. Details regarding future plans for PsyArXiv, including new features, can be found at this roadmap.

PsyArXiv welcomes contributions from all areas of psychology, and hosts papers under review, working papers, and manuscripts that might be difficult to publish in traditional venues, such as replications of previous work or failures to replicate. Also, it allows researchers to update their files as their manuscripts benefit from community comments and the traditional journal review process. Researchers can upload papers and find out more about PsyArXiv at both PsyArXiv.com and on our blog, or can ask questions at info@psyarxiv.com.

PsyArXiv Frequently Asked Questions

What is a preprint?

A preprint is a draft of a scholarly manuscript made available to the public prior to publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Why post a preprint?

Making one’s work available as a preprint has several advantages. First, it rapidly disseminates the findings of your research (it takes just minutes to upload a paper to PsyArXiv). Second, you can receive feedback rapidly and prior to submission to a peer-reviewed journal. This improves the overall quality of scholarship. Third, preprints submitted to PsyArXiv are available to anyone with Internet access; this allows scholars, citizens, and businesses without journal subscriptions or access to academic libraries (including, importantly, those in developing nations) to access a version of scientific publications at no charge. Finally, preprints add transparency to the scientific process by allowing access to different (i.e., pre-review, pre-editorial) versions of a manuscript.

Why upload to this particular archive?

PsyArXiv is the premiere preprint archive for the psychological sciences, and it is run by a community organization – the Society for the Improvement in Psychology Science.  The technology is provided by the Center for Open Science, a non-profit that many psychologists are already using to share their data and other materials. New features are coming, such as commenting, that we hope will promote a rich dialogue about cutting-edge psychological research.

How do I submit a manuscript to PsyArXiv?

Simply visit http://psyarxiv.com and click on “Add a preprint.” The site will walk you through a five-step process of uploading a new preprint or adding a preprint directly from the Open Science Framework.

How do journals deal with preprints?

Journals differ in terms of how they deal with the posting of preprints. Prior to uploading a manuscript to PsyArXiv, you should review the policies of any journal you are considering as an outlet (SHERPA/RoMEO is a database containing the policies of most journals). Usually, preprints that do not include changes made as a part of the journal editorial and reviewing process may be made available through PsyArXiv. In some cases journals allow edited versions of a paper accepted for publication to be made available on a preprint server; however, the publisher’s version (i.e., that which includes formatting, layout, etc.) will likely remain the property of the journal (and thus not available for posting to PsyArXiv), except in the case of open-access journals. Authors can also negotiate for permission to post their preprints using tools such as the SPARC Author Addendum.

What were the motivations for creating PsyArXiv?

PsyArXiv was founded in order to speed and improve psychological science. It was established to increase access to scientific findings and papers. Certainly all of us within academia, and a great number of the lay public, have encountered obstacles (paywalls, combing through overlapping search engines, etc.) in gaining access to articles. Such obstacles relegate access to some of the highest quality research to a privileged few. An insular, rigidly hierarchical science is a sick science.

The current journal publishing system heavily emphasizes novel, positive, unexpected results. Studies which fail to meet this threshold are often left in the proverbial “file drawer.” Yet not disseminating null results is detrimental to the quality and caliber of published work as well as to the advancement of scientific knowledge. Preprint servers enable scientists to clear their “file drawer” in the same way they might have had such studies been accepted for publication. This informs researchers about boundary conditions and reduces the repetition of failures across many labs which, at present, simply go unrecognized. Such failures end up draining public funds and waste valuable time.

Preprint servers also serves the aim of improving science by seeking to increase the quality of published work. The peer review process at most journals solicits feedback from two or three academics; in contrast, a preprint service offers the opportunity to provide and receive feedback from a broader range of academics, and can encourage feedback on the structure, presentation of analyses, and readability of a paper, in addition to the theoretical and/or empirical claims in the paper. This additional feedback can greatly improve the quality of work that is eventually published.

Why now?

Over the last several years, researchers, funders, and governments have increasingly recognized the need for more transparent and open science, both in the process of conducting studies and in that of disseminating results. More emphasis is being placed on attempting to replicate studies; individuals are encouraged or required to post their data and materials; analytic and methodological transparency, including reporting of null findings, has been strongly encouraged; and there has been increased recognition of the problems posed by the file drawer. All of these changes have culminated in an understanding that the current processes by which studies are discovered and, at times, disseminated stand in direct opposition to many of the aspirational goals of open science.

Is this service a replacement for journals?

PsyArXiv is not intended to replace journals. A preprint service is primarily intended to offer access to manuscripts before publication. However, in fields like physics and computer science, the popular arXiv.org preprint service (from which the PsyArXiv name comes) has become an integral part of the publication process. Posting one’s manuscript to arXiv greatly increases discoverability, meaning that one’s work is more likely to be seen, discussed, and cited. For science in the age of the Internet, the role of journals may become largely a way to collate research into relevant categories based on topic, discipline, or geography. However, formal peer review is an integral part of science, and journals play a critical role in facilitating this function.