Does information from preprints servers serves purpose in a pandemic like COVID19?

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by Kamal Pratap Singh, Email-kamal9871@gmail.com

Summary
– Preprints publish articles without peer review.
– Important articles are retracting from these servers too.
– Unlike normal journal which shows only published articles, preprints accumulates unpublished and unverified research on their servers which becomes available for public interpretation.

Introduction
Like we post updates on fb/Ln/Tw etc. and expect audience’s response, preprints like bioRxiv/medRxiv platforms posts scientific research papers and leave it on readers to understand, accept or reject the research. Earlier it was task of peer reviewers who used to carefully analyze the study and then either approve study if it is not found satisfactory on certain grounds. Let us see if these preprints servers are doing any good in pandemic times by taking the example of BioRxiv and MedRxiv.

Preprint and its benefits
1. A preprint is a full draft of a research paper that is shared publicly before it has been peer reviewed. Some of the benefits of preprints are:
2. Publishing a preprint is almost instantaneous.
3. Publish research with open access for free .
4. Preprints achieve many of the goals of journal publishing, but within a much shorter time frame.
5. When you post a preprint with your research results, you can firmly stake a claim to the work you’ve done.
6. Mass feedback can be provided publicly through commenting, or privately through email.
7. Posting a preprint led to a significant increase in altmetric attention scores and citations for the final published paper.

It was by Maimuna Majumder and Kenneth Mandl first, in March (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(20)30113-3/fulltext), analyzing media and other interest in preprints versus journal articles about the reproduction number for the new coronavirus when they concluded that because of the speed of release of preprints, they were driving the discourse, not journal articles. Decision-making can be informed quickly, they point out, but it can go badly wrong, too, as when a preprint had to be retracted after an outcry, because it erroneously claimed that COVID-19 virus contained HIV insertions.

Later the preprint of the  Santa Clara seroprevalence study (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.14.20062463v2), a highly contested piece of research, one of the authors of which is John Ioannidis attracted criticism. James Heathers wrote an informative and entertaining recap (https://medium.com/@jamesheathers/preprints-arent-the-problem-we-are-the-problem-75d29a317625) of the preprint and reaction to it, as well as the arguments about preprints themselves it provoked. He wrote, “the idea of releasing work previous to ‘formal’ publication isn’t the problem — it’s us”. He argues that a critical part of the preprint process is responding to criticisms. Heathers also criticized the authors’ media campaign: “The preprint-followed-by-immediate-formal-demand-for-attention is a disgusting new normal”.

 

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