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More than 50% of COVID-19 studies first published on the preprint server medRxiv were published in peer-reviewed journals within two years, according to a research letter published recently on JAMA Open Network.

In March 2022, European researchers looked at all COVID preprints posted on medRxiv during 2020. Of the 3, deployment medicine international 343 preprints on COVID posted that year, 1,712 (51.2%) were published in peer-reviewed journals. When the researchers looked again in October 2022, the number had risen to 1,742 (52.1%).

“Not considering January 2020, in which only 1 article on COVID-19 was posted, the rate of subsequent publication in a scientific journal ranged from 43.5% (94 of 216 preprints; observed in March 2020) to 60.6% (177 of 292 preprints posted in August 2020),” the open letter said.

The open letter said about half the preprints later published were published in quartile 1, or top-quality, journals including PLOS One, Scientific Reports, and BMJ Open.

Traditionally, a research manuscript receives feedback from two or three peer reviewers before publication, according to American Journal Experts. With a preprint, the research is published before the review process, allowing information to be disseminated to other researchers faster.

“Since the launch of the medRxiv preprint server in 2019, the dissemination of research as preprints has grown rapidly, largely facilitated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the open letter said. “Notwithstanding, this unprecedented increase in preprints has been subject to criticism, mainly because of reliability concerns owing to their lack of peer review.”

Some COVID treatments first discussed in preprints later proved to be ineffective, such as convalescent plasma and hydroxychloroquine.


JAMA Network Open: “Evaluation of Publication of COVID-19–Related Articles Initially Presented as Preprints”

American Journal Experts: “What Are Preprints, and How Do They Benefit Authors?”

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