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NIH Preprint Pilot Accelerates and Expands Discovery of Research Results

Expansion of pilot planned for early 2023

December 14, 2022

The NIH Preprint Pilot has accelerated and expanded broad discovery of NIH-funded research results relating to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19. This finding comes from a new preprint authored by staff at the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and made available in bioRxiv. A project of NLM, the NIH Preprint Pilot was launched to explore new approaches to increase the discoverability of NIH-supported research results and gain a better understanding of perceptions and practices regarding preprints.

Preprints are complete and public drafts of scientific articles that have not yet been peer reviewed. Their use in communicating the results of biomedical research surged during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NIH Preprint Pilot builds on the role of PubMed Central (PMC) as a repository for peer-reviewed articles supported by NIH under the NIH Public Access Policy as well as NIH’s encouragement of investigators to use interim products of research, including preprints, to speed the dissemination of research and enhance the rigor of their work.

As part of NLM’s response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, Phase 1 of the NIH Preprint Pilot added to PMC more than 3,300 preprint records reporting on the results of NIH-funded research on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 and made citations discoverable in PubMed. These preprints have been viewed 4 million times and 3 million times in PMC and PubMed, respectively. The records are clearly labeled as preprints and can be included or excluded from search results in both resources.

Two years after the launch of the pilot, NLM analyzed the results of Phase 1 and found that inclusion of preprints facilitates discovery of NIH-supported research by making content available in full-text searchable formats, accelerating discoverability in NLM literature databases, and expanding the NIH research results made searchable. The findings suggest that the availability of preprints did not decrease users’ trust of NLM and its literature resources, with some reporting increased trust due to greater transparency offered into the research process.

The success of the pilot has encouraged NLM to extend the pilot in a second phase to launch in early 2023 that will encompass all preprints reporting on NIH-funded research. For preprints that are authored by NIH-funded researchers and voluntarily posted to eligible preprint servers on or after January 1, 2023, NLM will automatically include the full text of the preprint (as license terms allow) and associated citation information available in PMC and PubMed, respectively.

NLM will monitor progress with the Phase 2 pilot to determine by the end of 2023 whether the success with preprints for COVID-19 translates to the broader scope of NIH-funded research and merits ongoing efforts.

Stay tuned for further updates on the NIH Preprint Pilot. To learn more about preprints, see the NIH Preprint Pilot FAQ.