Two separate studies, including one that looked at early Covid papers, suggest majority of alterations are minimal
Most preprint studies are being fully published without major changes, including those that were quickly shared on servers in the early days of the pandemic, according to two separate studies.
There are two ways to look at these research findings. On one hand, open and post-publication peer review of preprinted papers caught most of the issues identified by the traditional peer review processes of the journals where the paper was eventually published. On the other, no additional matters seem to have been identified by the more open, transparent and democratic peer review process. It hasn’t shaken our enthusiasm for the preprint route, but this isn’t what we expected and hoped to see.
Although the Covid-related papers had been taken from the first few months of the pandemic, when there was an explosion of quickly shared research findings, 83 per cent of the studies underwent no major changes to their conclusions by full publication. In the case of non-Covid-related research, the figure was 93 per cent.
According to the researchers, who published their findings in Plos Biology, the majority of changes made to abstracts were “textual alterations that led to a minor change or strengthening or softening of conclusions”, while about a quarter to a third of preprints “underwent no meaningful change” at all before being published.
Even among the 7 per cent of non-Covid articles and 17 per cent of Covid papers deemed to have had “discrete” major changes to abstracts, the majority of these did not “qualitatively change the conclusions of the paper”. The researchers found that just one main conclusion had been contradicted upon full publication of the article.