1. Computational and Systems Biology
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Meta-Research: Releasing a preprint is associated with more attention and citations for the peer-reviewed article

  1. Darwin Y Fu
  2. Jacob J Hughey  Is a corresponding author
  1. Vanderbilt University Medical Center, United States
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Cite this article as: eLife 2019;8:e52646 doi: 10.7554/eLife.52646


Preprints in biology are becoming more popular, but only a small fraction of the articles published in peer-reviewed journals have previously been released as preprints. To examine whether releasing a preprint on bioRxiv was associated with the attention and citations received by the corresponding peer-reviewed article, we assembled a dataset of 74,239 articles, 5,405 of which had a preprint, published in 39 journals. Using log-linear regression and random-effects meta-analysis, we found that articles with a preprint had, on average, a 49% higher Altmetric Attention Score and 36% more citations than articles without a preprint. These associations were independent of several other article- and author-level variables (such as scientific subfield and number of authors), and were unrelated to journal-level variables such as access model and Impact Factor. This observational study can help researchers and publishers make informed decisions about how to incorporate preprints into their work.

Data availability

Code and data to reproduce this study are available on Figshare (https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.8855795). In accordance with Altmetric's data use agreement, the Figshare repository does not include each article's Altmetric data, which are available from Altmetric after obtaining an API key.

The following previously published data sets were used
    1. Abdill RJ
    2. Blekhman R
    (2019) Rxivist
    Docker Hub, blekhmanlab/rxivist_data:2019-08-30.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Darwin Y Fu

    Department of Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Jacob J Hughey

    Department of Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-1558-6089


National Institute of General Medical Sciences (R35GM124685)

  • Jacob J Hughey

U.S. National Library of Medicine (T15LM007450)

  • Darwin Y Fu

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Peter Rodgers, eLife, United Kingdom

Publication history

  1. Received: October 11, 2019
  2. Accepted: December 3, 2019
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: December 6, 2019 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: December 16, 2019 (version 2)


© 2019, Fu & Hughey

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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