The medRxiv clinical preprint server launched in 2019 and has had to adapt at pace this year, as preprints have been adopted widely during the pandemic, says Theodora Bloom
People tend to have opinions on preprints and whether they help or hinder progress in research. I’m an unabashed preprint advocate. Of course, some preprints are more important and interesting than others, and some prove to be plain wrong, just like journal articles. And I declare an interest: last year BMJ joined forces with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Yale University to launch a preprint server for clinical medicine, medRxiv (pronounced “med-archive”),1 to enable quicker exchange of research ideas.2 In its first six months medRxiv handled a few hundred articles. In 2020 so far it has posted 12 000, mostly on one topic: coronavirus.3
Some have described the pre-print publication of papers as a laudable component of the move to open science and that it is democratising peer review. Others have noted with concern, the perils of publishing theories without prior peer review. Regardless, there can be no dispute of their speed and impact. This BMJ Editorial Feature reflects on their role amidst a gruelling pandemic.
For example, medRxiv aims to post only research articles (including systematic reviews) and protocols, not opinions or commentaries. But what counts as research? Some blog posts and newspaper articles contain more data and analysis than many preprint submissions. We decided that a preprint describing publicly available data should include research methods, contain more than just graphs and discussion, and discuss the research presented, rather than using a small amount of data to justify an extensive opinion.
Bloom, T. (2020) Shepherding preprints through a pandemic BMJ. 371 :m4703
Publisher (Free access): https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4703