Guest Post – The Covid Infodemic and the Future of the Communication of Science – The Scholarly Kitchen

“The world has gotten pretty opinionated about how scientific communication should be designed, and most of what has been published has fallen into one of two camps:

Camp A) The Covid crisis has torn down the walls of science and cranked the speed dial to 12. Instead of traditional journal publishing which takes months, preprints are exploding, “a global collaboration unlike any in history” is happening in real-time, and an old system is finally getting the overhaul it needed!
Camp B) We are seeing the first true social “infodemic.” Misinformation is everywhere, most of what is out there “isn’t even science,” and governments are cracking down on social media platforms and scientific publishers to dramatically limit the content that makes it online.

Both of these camps are at least partially correct, but few articles address the fact that speed and uncertainty in science are often two sides of the same coin, and getting the benefit of speed without the risk of uncertainty is extremely challenging….

Many of the old systems that have slowed down the pace of science in order to establish relevancy and truth-seeking as it builds from observation to intervention shouldn’t be thrown away in the move towards speed, but rather built into and strengthened via new technologies.”

Benefits and concerns regarding preprints

“This survey is being conducted by ASAPbio (a researcher-led non-profit working to promote the productive use of preprints, see asapbio.org) and attendees of #bioPreprints2020 (asapbio.org/building-trust-in-preprints-together) to understand perceptions of benefits and concerns of preprinting across a broad group of stakeholders. It should take less than 5 minutes to complete. No personally identifiable information will be collected unless you opt-in to discuss your opinions about preprints further. Responses (excluding any email addresses collected as a result of opting-in) will be shared publicly, aggregated across geographic, disciplinary, or professional categories.”

Rapid sharing of COVID-19 research · Commonplace

“Preprints, open peer review, and the rapid sharing of interim research findings have the potential to accelerate the process of scientific discovery. In research on SARS-CoV-2, speed is paramount, and researchers are using these new tools as never before.

In the following conversation, held on March 31 among Richard Wilder (General Counsel and Director of Business Development at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations), Dave O’Connor (The UW Medical Foundation (UWMF) Professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine at the University of Wisconsin), Richard Sever (Co-Founder of bioRxiv and medRxiv, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory) and Daniela Saderi (Co-Founder and Director of PREreview and Outbreak Science), we examine the use of preprints, rapid peer review, and informal channels to hasten communication of SARS-CoV-2 research. …”

Covid-19 Shows Scientific Journals Like Elsevier Need to Open Up – Bloomberg

“One big change brought on by Covid-19 is that virtually all the scientific research being produced about it is free to read. Anyone can access the many preliminary findings that scholars are posting on “preprint servers.” Data are shared openly via a multitude of different channels. Scientific journals that normally keep their articles behind formidable paywalls have been making an exception for new research about the virus, as well as much (if not all) older work relevant to it.

This response to a global pandemic is heartening and may well speed that pandemic to its end. But after that, what happens with scientific communication? Will everything go back behind the journal paywalls?

 

 

Well, no. Open-access advocates in academia have been pushing for decades to make more of their work publicly available and paywall-free, and in recent years they’ve been joined by the government agencies and large foundations that fund much scientific research. Covid-19 has accelerated this shift. I’m pretty sure there’s no going back. …”

New MIT Press Journal to Debunk Bad COVID-19 Research

“Preprint servers play an increasingly important role in the scholarly publishing landscape. They are a popular platform for researchers to get early feedback on their research. They are also a space where researchers can publish research products and data sets not typically published in traditional journals. The process is fast — publication of open-access research that anyone can read is immediate.

The downside of this open publication system is that sometimes controversial or poor-quality research can garner a lot of attention on social media or in news articles, said Stefano Bertozzi, professor of health policy and management at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health. In the clamor for information about COVID-19, it is easy for misinformation to spread online, he said.

To combat this, MIT Press and the Berkeley School of Public Health are launching a new COVID-19 journal, one that will peer review preprint articles getting a lot of attention — elevating the good research and debunking the bad.

The Rapid Reviews: COVID-19 journal will be led by Bertozzi, who will serve as the first editor in chief. Unlike a traditional journal, authors will not submit their work for review. Instead, the Rapid Reviews team will select and review already-published preprint articles — a publishing model known as an overlay journal.   …”

Rapid publications risk the integrity of science in the era of COVID-19 | BMC Medicine | Full Text

Abstract:  Background

Preprint manuscripts, rapid publications and opinion pieces have been essential in permitting the lay press and public health authorities to preview data relating to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), including the range of clinical manifestations and the basic epidemiology early on in the pandemic. However, the rapid dissemination of information has highlighted some issues with communication of scientific results and opinions in this time of heightened sensitivity and global concern.

Main text

Rapid publication of COVID-19 literature through expedited review, preprint publications and opinion pieces are important resources for the medical scientific community. Yet the risks of unverified information loom large in times when the healthcare community is desperate for information. Information that has not been properly vetted, or opinion pieces without solid evidence, may be used to influence public health policy decisions. We discuss three examples of unverified information and the consequences in this time of high anxiety surrounding COVID-19.

Conclusions

In an era when information can be widely and swiftly disseminated, it is important to ensure that the scientific community is not an inadvertent source of misinformation. This will require a multimodal approach, with buy-in from editors, publishers, preprint servers, authors and journalists. The landscape of medical publications has changed, and a collaborative approach is required to maintain a high standard of scientific communications.

Rapid publications risk the integrity of science in the era of COVID-19 | BMC Medicine | Full Text

Abstract:  Background

Preprint manuscripts, rapid publications and opinion pieces have been essential in permitting the lay press and public health authorities to preview data relating to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), including the range of clinical manifestations and the basic epidemiology early on in the pandemic. However, the rapid dissemination of information has highlighted some issues with communication of scientific results and opinions in this time of heightened sensitivity and global concern.

Main text

Rapid publication of COVID-19 literature through expedited review, preprint publications and opinion pieces are important resources for the medical scientific community. Yet the risks of unverified information loom large in times when the healthcare community is desperate for information. Information that has not been properly vetted, or opinion pieces without solid evidence, may be used to influence public health policy decisions. We discuss three examples of unverified information and the consequences in this time of high anxiety surrounding COVID-19.

Conclusions

In an era when information can be widely and swiftly disseminated, it is important to ensure that the scientific community is not an inadvertent source of misinformation. This will require a multimodal approach, with buy-in from editors, publishers, preprint servers, authors and journalists. The landscape of medical publications has changed, and a collaborative approach is required to maintain a high standard of scientific communications.

The relationship between bioRxiv preprints, citations and altmetrics | Quantitative Science Studies | MIT Press Journals

Abstract:  A potential motivation for scientists to deposit their scientific work as preprints is to enhance its citation or social impact. In this study we assessed the citation and altmetric advantage of bioRxiv, a preprint server for the biological sciences. We retrieved metadata of all bioRxiv preprints deposited between November 2013 and December 2017, and matched them to articles that were subsequently published in peer-reviewed journals. Citation data from Scopus and altmetric data from Altmetric.com were used to compare citation and online sharing behavior of bioRxiv preprints, their related journal articles, and nondeposited articles published in the same journals. We found that bioRxiv-deposited journal articles had sizably higher citation and altmetric counts compared to nondeposited articles. Regression analysis reveals that this advantage is not explained by multiple explanatory variables related to the articles’ publication venues and authorship. Further research will be required to establish whether such an effect is causal in nature. bioRxiv preprints themselves are being directly cited in journal articles, regardless of whether the preprint has subsequently been published in a journal. bioRxiv preprints are also shared widely on Twitter and in blogs, but remain relatively scarce in mainstream media and Wikipedia articles, in comparison to peer-reviewed journal articles.

 

 

A framework for thinking about the ‘new normal’ – Research Libraries UK

“The library community is one that prides itself on being open and collaborative. And so, as we move into the new normal, I hope that these instincts will come to the fore. But we should acknowledge that there are significant overheads to collaboration and cooperation. There may be long term benefits, but there are short term costs both directly and in staff time.  As budgets are squeezed in the short to medium term how can we ensure that collaboration continues?

 

Beyond the library community, there are a number of areas where alliances could be strengthened.  UK funders have placed a lot of emphasis on open research and the Covid crisis will be a promoter of that agenda – as researchers look to read preprints and papers beyond paywalls, as sequences and trials data are shared, as questions around epidemiology and the economics of reopening continue, the arguments for open research become stronger. The research library community is well placed to work with funders to support open research….”

Evolving our support for early sharing | Nature Communications

“Nature Communications encouraged rapid dissemination of results with the launch of Under Consideration in 2017. Today we take one more step by offering an integrated preprint deposition service to our authors as part of the submission process….

From today, our authors have the option to take advantage of In Review, a free preprint deposition service integrated with the submission process to our journal. The preprint of the author’s original submission will be posted (with a permanent DOI, under a CC-BY licence) on the multidisciplinary platform hosted by our partner Research Square at the same time as the submission is being considered by our editorial team….”