The surge in preprint server use, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, necessitates a reexamination of their significance in the realm of science communication. This study rigorously investigates discussions surrounding preprints, framing them within the contexts of systems theory and boundary objects in scholarly communication. An analysis of a curated selection of COVID-19-related preprints from bioRxiv and medRxiv was conducted, emphasizing those that transitioned to journal publications, alongside the associated commentary and Twitter activity. The data set was bifurcated into comments by biomedical experts versus those by nonexperts, encompassing both academic and general public perspectives. Findings revealed that while peers dominated nearly half the preprint discussions, their presence on Twitter was markedly diminished. Yet, intriguingly, the themes explored by these two groups diverged considerably. Preprints emerged as potent boundary objects, reinforcing, rather than obscuring, the delineation between scientific and nonscientific discourse. They serve as crucial conduits for knowledge dissemination and foster interdisciplinary engagements. Nonetheless, the interplay between scientists and the wider public remains nuanced, necessitating strategies to incorporate these diverse discussions into the peer review continuum without compromising academic integrity and to cultivate sustained engagement from both experts and the broader community.

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Handling Editor: Vincent Larivière

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