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MIT, Berkeley sponsor journal to accelerate peer review of Covid-19 research

The dizzying amount of research that has emerged on Covid-19, covering everything from epidemiology to new treatments and detection methods, has been invaluable to advancing understanding of the disease among researchers, health authorities and the public. But the proliferation of especially preprint research has also enabled the spread of misinformation, and a newly launched journal aims to combat it.

The MIT Press said in a blog post Monday that it and the University of California Berkeley had launched the journal, Rapid Reviews: COVID-19, or RR:C19 for short, which it described as an open-access overlay journal designed to accelerate peer review of research in Covid-19.

“This project signals a breakthrough in academic publishing, bringing together urgency and scientific rigor so the world’s researchers can rapidly disseminate new discoveries that we can trust,” the blog post quoted Patrick J. McGovern Foundation trustee Vilas Dhar as saying. The foundation is providing a $ 350,000 grant to support the project. “We are confident the RR:C19 journal will quickly become an invaluable resource for researchers, public health officials and healthcare providers on the frontline of this pandemic.”

While peer-reviewed journals have published a number of important studies on Covid-19, much of the research that has appeared has been on preprint servers, especially medRxiv.org. Meanwhile, peer review can take up to four weeks. That doesn’t mean some bad research has not managed to sneak through, as exemplified by the publication in The Lancet – one of the world’s top medical journals – of a 96,000-patient analysis of the safety and efficacy of the malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, which was subsequently retracted over concerns about the veracity of data used.

The global researchers behind RR:C19 will use artificial intelligence tools to scour preprint servers for promising scholarship, commission peer reviews and publish results on an open-access platform. The idea is to source manuscripts from around the world and across disciplines, including medicine, public health, biology, chemistry, social sciences and the humanities.

Photo: Kaikoro, Getty Images

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