Authors should consider this article when deciding whether to share preprints via Open Access (OA) repositories, such as CrimRxiv.1 “Preprints” are papers that have not been accepted for publication; once accepted, they are “postprints.”2 As I explain below, making preprints OA is good for science; not a problem for publishing in journals; and, protects against the risk of postprints being embargoed. In short, the benefits outweigh the costs.
A common question is whether it is “good” to make preprints OA. The answer is yes. It helps establish “priority of discovery” (e.g., first to propose a theory).3 It speeds up the scientific process, lengthens a paper’s life,4 and thereby increases its impact. Preprints invite scrutiny by being OA, not paywalled. Anyone can review them before publication. This is good for everyone: authors, the field, practitioners, and general public.5 An understandable counterargument is that making preprints OA undermines blind peer-review. But by that logic, people should not present preprints at conferences.6 And there are good arguments for why review should not be blind.7 No system is perfect; making preprints OA does more good than harm.
Another common question is whether journals will publish preprints that have been made OA.8 Again, yes.9 For example, all of these publishers have policies that explicitly permit the practice:
When submitting a paper to a journal, a good practice is to include a statement like what follows in the cover letter: “As permitted by ‘the publisher’, a preprint version of this paper is available at ‘URL or DOI’.”
A third question is not common but important: Are OA preprints a solution to embargo problems? Yes. Many (top) criminology journals embargo postprints for one year or more.10 Most allow instant sharing on your personal website, but some (e.g., Criminology) prohibit sharing those on any website. However, those embargoes do not apply to preprints. Thus, sharing your preprints on OA repositories mitigates the risk of publishing in embargoed outlets.