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Preprints: The Basics: Scooping and Other Common Misconceptions

A guide on what preprints are and why they are beneficial.


Bamboo Scoop

What is scooping?

The circumstance in which research is published by a researcher or researchers before a rival team can publish theirs on the same topic, or where an idea or results are published without proper attribution to those who came up with the idea or had results first.

If I deposit my preprint on a preprint server, isn't there a large risk of my work being scooped?

No, because preprint servers will often automatically timestamp and/or furnish a DOI for each preprint deposited, making it clear whose research came first.

Does depositing my work help in cases of unintentional scooping, where two different research teams might be working on the same topic and the work of one appears before the other?

Yes, in some cases. The first team's work should be cited in the second team's work. If the second team's work comes out shortly after the first, it becomes clear that the two teams were working independently, because the typically long process of research and publication makes it impossible for the second team to have started and completed a completely new research project within that span of time.


Sources: ASAPbio [Internet]. San Francisco CA: ASAPbio; c2021. Preprint FAQs; 2021 April; [about 10 screens]. Available from:

Lexico [Internet]. London UK: Oxford University Press; c2021. Definition of scoop; [date unknown]; [about 1 screen]. Available from:

Image by James C from Pixabay.

Common Misconceptions

By their definition, preprints are not peer-reviewed. How can we trust the information in them?

One of the benefits to depositing preprints on servers or repositories is that the research community (rather than a small team of anonymized peer reviewers) can provide feedback, and help to improve preliminary research or debunk misleading information.

Doesn't the establishment of priority by depositing preprints mean that researchers will rush to post them, resulting in poor quality work being disseminated so they won't get scooped?

That does not seem to be the case in the fields in which preprints have been around for decades. In addition, poor quality work would just be ignored - research has to be backed up by evidence, so even if there is priority established by a DOI or timestamp on a paper, does not mean that it would gain traction within that discipline's research community. Reputation is important to researchers, so it is unlikely that most would put out inferior work just to say they were the first.

What if journalists or laypeople read preprints and take the results in them as irrefutable evidence of something, not realizing that a preprint is not the final version of a publication?

Similar to the above question, this does not seem to have been the case with preprints already in existence. Many preprint servers screen papers before accepting them. Preprints are also often marked as such, warning the reader that they are not peer-reviewed.



Sources: ASAPbio [Internet]. San Francisco CA: ASAPbio; c2021. Preprint FAQs; 2021 April; [about 10 screens]. Available from:

Bourne PE, Polka JK, Vale RD, Kiley R. Ten simple rules to consider regarding preprint submission. PLoS Computational Biology. 2017 May 4;13(5):e1005473. Available from: