The Journal of Ecology along with the other British Ecological Society journals will now allow submission of manuscripts that have been previously posted on recognized preprint archives such as arXiv and PeerJ PrePrints and the new bioRχiv. We still won’t publish work that’s already been published, you have to tell us where a manuscript has been previously posted, and, if we publish your paper, we want you to provide a link to the final manuscript to accompany the original preprint. Full details of the preprint policy are provided in the Journal’s Author Guidelines.
This new policy on behalf of the BES reflects the changing face of publications, and the desire to make the results of science available as soon as possible. The finally accepted journal article will remain the version of record, but preprints allow exciting discoveries to be shared in a preliminary fashion. Another benefit of preprint posting is the opportunity for the scientific community to offer feedback and comment on the work and the manuscript. In past times, it was common to send our draft manuscripts to colleagues for “friend of the court” review. Some unscrupulous individuals would even send out draft manuscripts to colleagues in order to put their name in the acknowledgments to avoid them being chosen as reviewers in the formal peer-review process! Of course, I’ve never dreamed of doing that myself, I’m just saying that I’ve heard that it happened! In fact, as a young post-graduate I recall cringing when I overheard a very famous ecologist reprimanding a not quite so famous ecologist for doing exactly that!
Regardless, I’m hoping that allowing this opportunity for feedback to authors prior to submission to the Journal will result in improved manuscripts. There is even the idea floating around that comments on preprints and authors responses could be included as part of the official manuscript submission to help move the review process along. But, that’s just an idea. Let’s see how this new policy works out first.
Executive Editor, Journal of Ecology