Is Scientific Publishing About to Be Disrupted? ASAPbio, Briefly Explained

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A group of biologists gathered last month outside Washington, D.C., for a conference that could help spur change in how the discipline publishes its work. United under the name ASAPbio, attendees discussed how they might upend the traditional publishing structure in the interest of speeding up scientific discovery and…

A group of biologists gathered last month outside Washington, D.C., for a conference that could help spur change in how the discipline publishes its work. United under the name ASAPbio, attendees discussed how they might upend the traditional publishing structure in the interest of speeding up scientific discovery and making scholarship more publicly accessible.

The New York Times published an article about ASAPbio on Tuesday, effectively lending it more visibility. Here’s what you need to know:

What is ASAPbio?

In a nutshell, it is a movement of biologists who are endorsing the use of “preprints,” or the open-access publication of research before it has been peer-reviewed. Here’s a video explainer promoted on ASAPbio’s website:

Advocates argue that greater use of preprints, in conjunction with continued submission to traditional journals, will allow scientists and the public to more seamlessly keep up with important discoveries as they’re made.

It’s also morphed into a hashtag that some scientists have used to share notice of their preprints:

Dear Dr. Greider, We are pleased to inform you that the above manuscript has passed screening and will be online shortly. Cant wait #ASAPbio

— Carol Greider (@CWGreider) February 29, 2016

Just uploaded a paper @biorxivpreprint for the first time! Am I too late to get a unicorn T-shirt ? @mbeisen @pollyp1 #ASAPbio

— Cynthia Wolberger (@CWolberger) March 11, 2016

Preprint of our latest work: Hierarchical cortical transcriptome disorganization in autism. #ASAPbio #autism https://t.co/ZIl49nPFxv

— Michael Lombardo (@mvlombardo) March 15, 2016

Who’s behind it?

Several prominent biologists, including scientists at Harvard, Yale, and Cornell Universities.

Some observers have wondered whether the movement will catch fire among less-established researchers, who have more to lose by subverting the traditional publishing channels.

Interesting article on #ASAPbio. https://t.co/FpxRkAbtny. Does it only work for established scientists?

— Elizabeth Little (@lizzycharleston) March 15, 2016

But many ASAPbio advocates have stressed the continued importance of peer review, even as they look for another avenue to pick up the pace of discovery.

What about the National Institutes of Health?

It’s unclear how the NIH, the biggest funding source for research at American universities, would treat preprints in the grant-application process.

The author of the Times article, Amy Harmon, and several Twitter users discussed that topic in an insightful thread on Tuesday, after the article was published:

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 5.38.50 PM
How can I learn more?

Read the article in The New York Times.

Watch footage from the #ASAPbio conference.

Visit the ASAPbio website.

View the #ASAPbio hashtag.

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