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ICMJE Recommendations updated to include new section on preprints


The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) has updated its official Recommendations for journals and authors and now includes a whole new section about preprints. The document now sets out more detailed advice for journals and authors regarding preprints, and clearly states that there are benefits and harms of the dissemination of scientific findings prior to peer review.

The Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals is a set of principles and standards followed by hundreds of affiliated biomedical journals. As reported here before, the Committee had already included brief advice about preprints in the 2018 update of this document. Now, a separate item deals with the choice of archives, the submission of preprinted manuscripts to journals and referencing. 


Not peer-reviewed

The suggestion that authors choose archives that clearly identify preprints as not peer-reviewed work has been retained in the new update, as well as the responsibility of authors to inform journals about the deposit of a submitted manuscript in a preprint archive. However, this advice was previously described as a way to avoid prior or duplicate publication only (setting peer reviewing as a difference between the preprint deposit and the journal article). In the current update, the ICMJE recommendations go further regarding the description of preprinting practices. 


Journals policies

The Committee also suggests that journals describe their policies about preprints clearly in their Instructions for Authors. When they are aware of each journal policy, authors can make informed decisions about whether or not they should deposit their work as a preprint and also choose the best preprint platform.


Choosing a preprint archive

The updated Recommendations sets out six essential characteristics to consider when choosing a preprint platform: 

1) a clear warning about the lack of peer review;

2) authors’ disclosure of interest;

3) funding sources declared;

4) a commenting feature or a system for the notification of concerns about deposited materials;

5) withdrawing notifications (permanent notification about deposits that have been withdrawn for whatever reason);

6) indication of subsequent publication of the work in a scientific journal.


Article publication

It is recommended that, when submitting a paper for publication, authors should inform the journal about the preprint posting of the same work. The study can be deposited before submission or during the peer review process, but the editors must be informed, with a link to the preprint posting provided. After publication, the preprint deposit must point readers to the published article in the scientific journal.



The Recommendations also state that in published articles, all citations of preprinted work must clearly indicate that the reference is to a preprint. The word “preprint” should be included both at the end of the reference, in the references list, and in the citation within the text. 


The Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals

Read the full updated Recommendations in this annotated PDF document: http://icmje.org/news-and-editorials/icmje-recommendations_annotated_dec21.pdf

Or find the clean, updated version at this address: http://www.icmje.org/recommendations/

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