Publication of manuscripts in a peer-reviewed journal often takes weeks, months or even years from the time of initial submission, because manuscripts must undergo extensive reviewer critique. The need to quickly circulate current results within a scientific community has led researchers to distribute documents known as preprints, which are manuscripts that have yet to undergo peer review. The immediate distribution of pre-prints allows authors to receive early feedback from their peers, which may be helpful in revising and preparing articles for submission.
Since 1991, preprints have increasingly been distributed electronically on the Internet, rather than as paper copies. This has given rise to massive preprint databases such as arXiv.org and institutional archives (or repositories). Such preprints may be known as e-prints, or eprint
The e-print archive arXiv.org (pronounced "archive") was created by Paul Ginsparg in 1991 at Los Alamos National Laboratory for the purpose of distributing theoretical high-energy physics preprints. In 2001, arXiv.org moved to Cornell University and now encompasses the fields of physics, mathematics, non-linear science, computer science, and quantitative biology. Within the field of high-energy physics, the posting of preprints on arXiv is so common that many peer-reviewed journals allow submission of papers from arXiv directly, using the arXiv e-print number.
In some branches of physics, the arXiv database may serve as a focal point for the many criticisms made of the peer review process and peer-reviewed journals. In 1992 David Mermin facetiously described Ginsparg's creation as potentially "string theory's greatest contribution to science".
The ability to distribute manuscripts as preprints has had a great impact on computer science, particularly in the way that scientific research is disseminated in that field (see Citeseer). The open access movement has tended to focus on distributed institutional collections of research, global harvesting, and aggregation through search engines and gateways such as OAIster, rather than a global discipline base such as arXiv. E-prints can now refer to any electronic form of a scholarly or scientific publication, including journal articles, conference papers, research theses or dissertations, because these usually are found in multidisciplinary collections, called open access repositories, or eprints archives.