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How biologists pioneered preprints—with paper and postage

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Science  29 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6358, pp. 1348
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6358.1348

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Summary

As a growing number of biologists formally share their papers in online repositories, it's often said that they are catching up with physicists, who have posted preprints in the online arXiv server since 1991. But biomedical scientists were actually first, reveals a researcher who has traced a "forgotten experiment" from the 1960s, when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, created a preprint exchange but shut it down when publishers objected. Matthew Cobb, a biologist and science historian at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, recounts how starting in 1961, a 70-year-old NIH administrator named Errett Albritton formed what he called information exchange groups, consisting of interested scientists working in the same subfield.