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Table of Contents: 2020 MAY–JUNE No. 434

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NLM Announces NIH Preprint Pilot to Provide Early Access to COVID-19 Research

NLM Announces NIH Preprint Pilot to Provide Early Access to COVID-19 Research. NLM Tech Bull. 2020 May-June;(434):e3.

2020 June 09 [posted]

On June 9, 2020, NLM launched a pilot project to test the viability of making preprints resulting from NIH-funded research available via PubMed Central (PMC). The primary goal of the NIH Preprint Pilot will be to explore approaches to increasing the discoverability of early NIH research results. Following standard NLM practice, a citation for each preprint record in PMC will also be available in PubMed to further increase the discoverability of this content. The pilot will run for a minimum of 12 months. Lessons learned during that time will inform future NLM efforts with preprints.

In its role as the repository for peer-reviewed manuscripts supported by NIH, PMC already makes available more than one million papers resulting from NIH-supported research. Building on NIH guidance (NOT-OD-17-050) to investigators encouraging the use of interim research products, such as preprints, to speed the dissemination and enhance the rigor of their work, NLM hopes this pilot will inform possible future steps to further accelerate the discovery and access of papers that are developed with NIH funds, and encourage the open and fast dissemination of NIH research results, when appropriate.

The pilot will initially focus on increasing the discoverability of preprints with NIH support and posted to eligible preprint servers that relate to the current COVID-19 pandemic. NLM is leveraging the iSearch COVID-19 Portfolio tool developed by the NIH Office of Portfolio Analysis to identify preprints reporting on COVID-19 research. To curate a collection of NIH-supported preprints from this tool, NLM is searching available NIH author affiliation metadata and testing preliminary text mining workflows. This phased implementation allows NLM an opportunity to streamline and refine workflows with a set of articles for which there is a growing demand for accelerated access.

To ensure transparency, preprint records in PMC and PubMed will be identified by large banners that clearly identify the articles as preprints. The banners will explain that the papers have not been peer reviewed and will link to information about the pilot for additional context.

PubMed preprint banner.
Figure 1: Example of a preprint banner on a PubMed record.

Newly created filters will also provide users with the option to exclude preprint records from search results. In PMC, you can use a search filter to find preprint records: preprint[filter]. In PubMed, you can query by publication type: preprint[pt]. To exclude preprint records from your search results, you can use the Boolean "NOT" in either database, e.g., covid 19 NOT preprint[filter] in PMC and covid 19 NOT preprint[pt] in PubMed.

Once curation and ingest workflows become scalable, NLM hopes to expand the pilot to include the full spectrum of NIH research. Further, to enable NIH investigators to more easily report preprints as products of award, NLM will simplify the process for adding preprint citations to My Bibliography this summer.

NLM will continually monitor the impact of the pilot on the scholarly communications landscape, including how and when research results are shared, discovered, disseminated, and reported. In evaluating the impact of the pilot, NLM will also look for evidence of increased awareness of and emerging best practices around preprint sharing. Regular updates on the pilot status will be posted to the NLM Technical Bulletin.

As the pilot unfolds, NLM will engage stakeholders throughout the coming months. We encourage you to send your feedback to

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