Critical Lessons From Last Week’s Retraction of Two COVID-19 Papers | MedPage Today

“According to an investigative report in The Guardian, Sapan Desai had been previously linked to highly ambitious (and dubious) claims. In 2008, he promoted a “next generation human augmentation device” called Neurodynamics Flow, which he said “can help you achieve what you never thought was possible,” claiming that “with its sophisticated programming, optimal neural induction points, and tried and true results, Neurodynamics Flow allows you to rise to the peak of human evolution.”

It is important to realize that concerns about the existence and validity of the Surgisphere databases surfaced only after the paper on hydroxychloroquine was published. The earlier NEJM paper on inhibitors of the renin-angiotensin system was never criticized, even though Surgisphere was the primary data and analytical source.

Why? The NEJM paper included data from 8,910 patients treated at 169 hospitals across three continents (Asia, Europe and North America), a database that may have seemed credible — even though Surgisphere had no track record of publications. In contrast, the Lancet paper cited data from 96,032 patients treated at 671 hospitals from six continents. It seems that the decision by the authors to include data from Australia and Africa represented a fatal strategic error, since these could be far more easily matched up with public records. When the data from these two regions failed to make sense, the paper unraveled. Conceivably, if the authors had not overreached and if they had merely confined their analysis to three continents, it is likely that the Lancet paper would have survived….

The possibility that fraudulent data would have been accepted — if it had not been for the excessive ambitions of the authors — is distressing beyond words. The implications for medical research are profound….

Many have criticized preprint servers because they allow the dissemination of data and information that has not been peer-reviewed. But can we continue to denigrate papers lacking peer review if the process failed us at this critical time? Some might still argue that peer review was highly effective in the two COVID-19 retractions; it simply occurred following (rather than prior to) publication. However, even the staunchest advocates of journals as gatekeepers must concede that the post-publication examination and analysis can occur whether the information is presented in a top-tier journal or on a preprint server….”

Being published successfully or getting arXived? The importance of social capital and interdisciplinary collaboration for getting printed in a high impact journal in Physics

Abstract:  The structure of collaboration is known to be of great importance for the success of scientific endeavors. In particular, various types of social capital employed in co-authored work and projects bridging disciplinary boundaries have attracted researchers’ interest. Almost all previous studies, however, use samples with an inherent survivor bias, i.e., they focus on papers that have already been published. In contrast, our article examines the chances for getting a working paper published by using a unique dataset of 245,000 papers uploaded to arXiv. ArXiv is a popular preprint platform in Physics which allows us to construct a co-authorship network from which we can derive different types of social capital and interdisciplinary teamwork. To emphasize the ‘normal case’ of community-specific standards of excellence, we assess publications in Physics’ high impact journals as success. Utilizing multilevel event history models, our results reveal that already a moderate number of persistent collaborations spanning at least two years is the most important social antecedent of getting a manuscript published successfully. In contrast, inter- and subdisciplinary collaborations decrease the probability of publishing in an eminent journal in Physics, which can only partially be mitigated by scientists’ social capital.

 

Preprint Journal Club: In partnership with PREreview | Events | eLife

“eLife is pleased to be running a monthly preprint journal club with PREreview, a platform for the crowdsourcing of preprint reviews.

Each month the eLife editorial team will select a preprint for discussion which is currently under review at eLife. The live streamed journal club will then discuss the preprint, providing constructive feedback. These comments will be aggregated, shared as a PREreview and also incorporated into the review comments the authors receive as part of their review at eLife….”

The NIH Preprint Pilot: A New Experiment for a New Era – NLM Musings from the Mezzanine

“Recognizing the growing interest in preprints, NLM is today launching the first phase of the NIH Preprint Pilot, which will test the viability of making preprints searchable in PubMed Central (PMC) and, by extension, discoverable in PubMed, starting with COVID-19 preprints reporting NIH-supported research.

To be clear, NLM is not building a preprint server for NIH investigators, nor are we developing a comprehensive preprint discovery resource. Rather, through this pilot, we plan to add a curated collection of preprints from eligible preprint servers to our established literature resources. In doing so, our goal is to improve scholarly communications by accelerating and expanding the findability of NIH research results.

With the encouragement of NIH leadership, NLM has been exploring ways to leverage its literature databases to help accelerate the discoverability and maximize the impact of NIH-supported research via preprints. The planned pilot builds on guidance released by NIH in March 2017, which encouraged NIH investigators to use preprints and other interim research products to speed the dissemination of research and enhance the rigor of their work through public comments and new scientific collaborations….”

Against pandemic research exceptionalism | Science

“The global outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has seen a deluge of clinical studies, with hundreds registered on clinicaltrials.gov. But a palpable sense of urgency and a lingering concern that “in critical situations, large randomized controlled trials are not always feasible or ethical” (1) perpetuate the perception that, when it comes to the rigors of science, crisis situations demand exceptions to high standards for quality. Early phase studies have been launched before completion of investigations that would normally be required to warrant further development of the intervention (2), and treatment trials have used research strategies that are easy to implement but unlikely to yield unbiased effect estimates. Numerous trials investigating similar hypotheses risk duplication of effort, and droves of research papers have been rushed to preprint servers, essentially outsourcing peer review to practicing physicians and journalists. Although crises present major logistical and practical challenges, the moral mission of research remains the same: to reduce uncertainty and enable caregivers, health systems, and policy-makers to better address individual and public health. Rather than generating permission to carry out low-quality investigations, the urgency and scarcity of pandemics heighten the responsibility of key actors in the research enterprise to coordinate their activities to uphold the standards necessary to advance this mission….”

Fast pace of scientific publishing on COVID comes with problems

“The pace of scientific publishing has accelerated dramatically in response to the COVID pandemic. Journals have sped up time from submission to publication, and scientists have uploaded thousands of papers to open-access preprint servers without first going through the normal peer-review process. As the volume and speed of scientific publishing has increased, it’s perhaps inevitable that mistakes will slip through — mistakes that can have serious stakes and consequential outcomes in the context of a highly politicized pandemic….”

Open Access lessons during Covid-19: No lockdown for research results! | Plan S

“The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it, and research is no exception. Globally, scientists are working together at unprecedented speed, in a race against time to understand the virus and its treatment, sharing data and results as fast as they can. Journal editors are cooperating and becoming more flexible. Embargoes are lifted, paywalls abolished and preprint servers like MedrXiv and bioRxiv have accelerated research evaluation and discussion. Suddenly the demand for instant access to the relevant research literature has become self-evident. How could the argument for full and immediate Open Access still be ignored?…”

Fast news or fake news?: The advantages and the pitfalls of rapid publication through pre?print servers during a pandemic: EMBO reports: Vol 21, No 6

“Since the start of the COVID?19 pandemic, hundreds of scientific papers that are related to the disease in one way or another have been uploaded to pre?print servers for anyone to read and comment on. This has been a boon of early insights into SARS?CoV?2 for the research community, but there are also concerns that some of these attract more credence than they deserve. For some, pre?print servers represent a windfall in rapid information at a crucial time for society, while for others, they are a murky meandering away from scientific rigour….”

Rapid publishing in the era of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID?19) – Lee – – Medical Journal of Australia – Wiley Online Library

“The advent of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID?19) has generated an unparalleled level of interest from the medical and non?medical community. As clinician?scientists, we watch in astonishment at the exponential growth of academic publications in journals. In January 2020, PubMed saw a sharp rise in the number of publications related to COVID?19, which continues to grow….

The urgent nature of this situation means a number of preliminary studies and publications on COVID?19 are fast?tracked through the peer review process — or not at all — in the hope of rapidly publicising important findings, opinions and experiences. However, hastily penned observations may mislead and do more harm than good….”

New Report – How COVID-19 is Changing Research Culture – Digital Science

“The report key findings include: 

As of 1 June 2020, there have been upwards of 42,700 scholarly articles on COVID-19 published, 3,100 clinical trials, 420 datasets, 270 patents, 750 policy documents, and 150 grants.

Preprints have rapidly established as a mainstream research output and a key part of COVID-19 research efforts. They started at relatively low levels in early January 2020 and accounted for around one quarter of research output by the beginning of May 2020.

To date, more than 8,300 organisations have been involved in supporting COVID-19 research, with over 71,800 individual researchers identified as working on COVID-19 research.

The highest intensity of research into COVID-19 began in China and gradually migrated west mirroring the movement of the virus itself.

While the US and EU have both now published more than China in journals such as The Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA, China continues to benefit from an early mover advantage and continues to enjoy the lionshare of the citations. While research in the field is clearly moving quickly, it currently remains anchored to China’s early publications.

A density map of global COVID-19 paper production shows there are three to four major centres of research: an extended area in China composed of several cities—Wuhan, where the virus is alleged to have started, Beijing and Shanghai; Europe, specifically Italy and the UK, two of the harder hit countries; the US’s east coast research corridor including Boston and New York; and finally, a lighter focus from the Californian institutions on the West coast.

The top producing institution of COVID-19 research (since the beginning of 2020) is in China, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, followed by Harvard University and the University of Oxford.

The top healthcare producers of COVID-19 research (since the beginning of 2020) are Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, then Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

While the proportion of internationally co-authored work is steady, the vast majority of research on COVID to date has been unusually authored within countries.

At the time of writing, 156 grants totalling at least 20.8m USD have been awarded to COVID-themed researchers in public institutions.

Much of the clinical trial initiation activity in January and February is sponsored by China and this then begins to fall off in March, April and May. We see a similar wave for Europe and the US, but shifted back by two months, beginning in March….”