India gets 1st preprint server back — ‘IndiaRxiv’ aims to be one-stop shop for domestic research

IndiaRxiv set up by Open Access India, advocacy group founded by Sridhar Gutam of Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, to make scientific findings freely available.

A research being done in a laboratory| Representational image || Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg
A research being done in a laboratory | Representational image || Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg

Bengaluru: Indian researchers again have a dedicated server to upload pre-prints of their research. IndiaRxiv (pronounced India Archive) was relaunched on 24 February after a temporary run two years ago.

Preprints are research papers that have not yet undergone a peer review, as is the norm to establish verified results from scientific research. Preprints have proved useful in advancing science during the pandemic, making findings public much quicker, before the time-consuming peer-review process. Conversely, the lack of peer review enables academics to upload and make public findings that may not be the result of complete rigour.

Global preprint servers such as arXiv (general) and bioRxiv (for life sciences) exist already. With IndiaRxiv, the work of Indian researchers can be collated in one place, say the scientists behind the server.

“Now or later, all the works of Indian researchers will be available at one portal and the landscape of works can show how the research is being carried out over a period of time and across various disciplines by Indian researchers,” said Sridhar Gutam, senior scientist at Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (ICAR-IIHR), Hyderabad.

The server has been set up by Open Access India, an advocacy group founded by Gutam, to promote open access to research or make scientific findings freely available.

Currently, top peer-reviewed journals are known to charge researchers exorbitant fees, to both publish their paper, and also subsequently remove the paywall for the published paper. As a result, open-access services like Sci-Hub have been created to make research more accessible to scientists themselves.


Also read: 4th Covid wave could hit India between June & October, IIT-Kanpur preprint says


Inception of IndiaRxiv

The initial support for communities to launch co-branded, preprint servers came from the Centre for Open Science (COS), a US-based non-profit. Under this aid, Open Access India first started agriRxiv as a subject-specific preprint repository. IndiaRxiv was also created and launched then (in 2019), but COS ran out of funds for hosting the servers a year later.

In its brief run then, the IndiaRxiv server had received 140 uploads of papers through 2019 and 2020. In 2021, the un-funded initiative was able to find hosting again when the Public Knowledge Project (PKP), an initiative to develop open-source software for research, released their Open Preprint Systems.

The establishment of a region-specific preprint server follows examples from other regions, such as Indonesia’s INA-Rxiv and Africa’s AfricArxiv, which inspired the creation of IndiaRxiv.

However, all such regional repositories could not pay hosting fees to COS, leading to the closing of INA-Rxiv, ArabXiv, and marine conservation server MarXiv in 2020. Geosciences server EarthArXiv reportedly left the COS’s platform due to the $230,000/year hosting fee.

“The underlying motive for setting up or launching the preprint servers for India by Open Access India is to make researchers aware of the preprint server and encourage them to share their works immediately to get quick feedback,” said Gutam. “When researchers are looking for rapid publication and submit to journals that are questionable, submission to preprint servers can help them date-stamp their works and can improve their manuscripts for submission to journals.”

Country- and region-specific repositories can help collate all research in various subjects under one umbrella, he added.

Combating misinformation

While preprints can enable quick distribution and availability of research data, they can also contribute to misinformation in the form of sensationalised, or non-rigorous or pseudoscientific research.

As both legitimate and subpar quality papers are uploaded side-by-side, it can often lead to misinterpretation and misrepresentation of badly performed studies, a common problem with preprint servers.

To combat this, IndiaRxiv has made its publishing moderated and not self-published. The server has a “steering committee”, comprising volunteers from academia, who do initial quality checks and then approve papers for publication on the server.

“Preprints can have various versions based on improvements. But when published, it will have only one version and cannot be updated,” said Gutam.

Papers are also open to comments immediately after being published, and the site encourages criticism and reports for retraction, if needed.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)


Also read: India gets 1st preprint server back — ‘IndiaRxiv’ aims to be one-stop shop for domestic research