After months of preparation, which included discussing ideas with researchers, building and testing the website, and recruiting the first group of preLighters, The Company of Biologists launched preLights on 20 February 2018, with 28 highlights on the site. Three years and over a thousand preLight posts later, we are pleased with how this initiative has grown.
Not only has the number of views (now over 12,000/month) and posts increased each year, but so too has author engagement, with 58% of preLight posts containing an author’s response in 2020. We’ve heard from many readers, authors and preLighters that they particularly enjoy this Q&A which follows the summary of the preprint – and some authors have even incorporated feedback from preLighters into their manuscript!
While the most frequently highlighted subject category is cell biology, followed by developmental biology, our coverage has diversified over the years and the preLighters have now featured preprints in all 27 subject categories on bioRxiv. To our surprise, many highlights are highly read even well after they are posted on our website, or following publication of the work in a journal (which is one of the reasons why we ask authors to share how their preprint changed during peer review). Our most-read preLight posts boast over 4,500 views each, and are on preprints about a comparison of droplet-based single-cell RNA-seq techniques and a description of bioRxiv, its growth and results from an author survey.
Many preLighters on our team have actively advocated for preprints beyond writing highlights; they’ve given presentations or even a webinar in their own language about preLights, organised a preprint workshop, wrote blog posts, and lead projects as well as participated in meta-analyses on COVID-19 preprints. A group of preLighters is also currently working on a meta-analysis of preprints highlighted on our platform, and we hope to share the results in the near future.
As a birthday gift to ourselves, the preLights weekly newsletter has received a complete redesign, which we hope will satisfy our registered users (you can freely register and sign up for the weekly alerts here if you haven’t done so already). In the coming weeks we are also introducing some smaller changes to the Menu and adding new elements and features to the site. As always, we are happy to get feedback about preLights from the broader scientific community, so do get in touch if you have suggestions or are interested in joining the team of preLighters.