For years medical researchers held off while scientists in other fields embraced online platforms for posting rough drafts of manuscripts, known as preprints.
The hurried pace and publication of COVID-19 research means mistakes are going to be made. This vexed situation, where data is being rushed out to meet a need-but there is not time to verify using standard means. Over the last 24h we have posted some great pieces offering an important warning.
Some argue that such rapid data sharing is ideally suited for infectious disease outbreaks like the one we’re experiencing now.
However, the prospect of public access to unvetted work sparked worry about potential health scares and patients demanding unproven treatments. A BMJ editorial put it this way: “Can the need for speed be balanced with suitable safeguards to protect the public?”
We’re now finding out.
A medical preprint server called medRxiv (pronounced “med-archive”) went live last summer. It’s a partnership of BMJ (publisher of The BMJ), Yale University, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.