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“Why bioRxiv can’t be the Central Service”

I followed this link to Jordan Anaya’s page and there to this post on biology preprint servers.

Anyway, as a fan of preprint servers I appreciate Anaya’s point-by-point discussion of why one particular server, bioRxiv (which I’d never heard of before but I guess is popular in biology), can’t do what some people want it to do.

The whole thing is also one more demonstration of why twitter sucks (except this one time), in that Anaya is responding to some ignorance coming from that platform. On the other hand, one could say that twitter is valuable in this case as having brought a widespread misconception to the surface.

P.S. Lots and lots of biology papers get written and cited. Just for example I was looking up my colleague John Carlin on Google Scholar. He has an h-index of 95! He works in biostatistics. Another friend from grad school, Chris Schmid, his h-index is 85. h-index is just one thing, it’s no big deal, it’s just interesting to see how that works. Some fields get lots of citation because people are publishing tons of papers there. In biology there are a zillion postdocs all publishing papers, and every paper has about 30 authors. imagine there will soon be a similar explosion of citations in computer science—if it hasn’t happened already—because every Ph.D. student and postdoc in CS is submitting multiple papers to all the major conferences. If conference papers are getting indexed, this is gonna blow all the citation counts through the roof. Actually this sort of hyperinflation might be a net positive in that it would devalue the whole citation-count thing.

P.P.S. Anaya’s post has a place for comments but it’s on this site called Medium where if you want to comment, you need to sign in, and then you start getting mail in your inbox from Medium, and if you want to cancel your Medium account, it tells you that if you do so, it will delete all your posted comments. That ain’t cool.


  1. Yes it all looks like it’s going to get even more analytically complicated.

  2. Jordan Anaya says:

    Just a quick update for people who care about biology preprints, or preprints in general:

    It turns out that the people who run bioRxiv will be in charge of the “Central Service” after all (but it won’t be bioRxiv in its current form).

    Basically, ASAPbio had issued a call for applications for developers of a “Central Service”, they even already had obtained 1 million in funding for the project:

    However, the people who run bioRxiv then joined forces with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the details of which haven’t been made public. So instead of ASAPbio competing with the Facebook people to develop the “Central Service”, ASAPbio decided to just trust that they’ll do a good job:

    Specifically, it will be the company Meta that works on a preprint aggregator:

    P.S. I assume your experience with Medium comments comes from commenting on one of James Heathers’ posts. He has a new post you might be interested in:

  3. amoeba says:

    I am using biorxiv daily and I am not a huge fan of how the site is organized, but many of Anaya’s critical points equally apply to which is a bit ridiculous: arxiv is around since 1991, is an absolute standard in many disciplines (math & some parts of physics), and I haven’t heard anybody (from these fields) seriously complaining about it.

  4. jay says:

    I am an astronomer; all astronomers post all their papers on the arXiv, and it has an extremely high approval rating. Biology would be lucky to have something which is as good as a replica of the arXiv.

  5. Jake says:

    Looking at Anaya’s points, I think #2 (“Incompatible Licenses”) is factually incorrect, the biorxiv About page ( says: “””By posting on bioRxiv, authors explicitly consent to text mining of their work (e.g., by search engines or researchers).”””

    That said I think he does have some good points about policies and metadata, but it’s not necessarily clear how bad biorxiv is with this as compared to the alternatives. (And regarding the site not always being up, arxiv doesn’t always want to play nicely with the zotero browser plugin; I believe zotero says this is an arxiv problem….)

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