It takes a pandemic to change biomedical publishing
peter.suber's bookmarks 2020-03-25
"As the world reels from the menace of COVID-19, and scientists race to develop cures, they are doing so in real time and in the open. People who in a a different time would have been rivals, chasing after a scarce amount of research funding, are now collaborators. This can be direct collaboration, or simply posting research data publicly so that others can build from it.
Most of the posting occurs on pre-print servers, as Jeffrey S. Flier of Harvard Medical School notes. These servers host content that has not yet been peer-reviewed — usually research papers undergo a behind-closed-doors review before being released. During the COVID-19 emergency people are skipping that step and allowing their work to be reviewed in the open, either as comments on the articles themselves or in Twitter posts.
One obvious risk is that bad information, about either the origins of COVID-19 or treatments that in fact do not work, will proliferate. Peer review before publication is supposed to prevent such outcomes. But as Flier points out, traditional peer review is not always up to this task; after all, the Lancet paper that found a spurious link between vaccines and autism was peer reviewed. Flier argues that — on balance and so far — the benefits of rapid access to emerging information about COVID-19 outweigh the harms.
All of which leaves long-standing advocates of open access publishing, like myself, amazed. Turns out that it takes a pandemic to change biomedical publishing...."