Quickly communicating pertinent clinical information, such as research regarding patient treatments, is critical during public health crises like the ongoing novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. However, the standard publication process for scientific articles, including peer review, can take as long as two years, and this slow pace of scientific publication can interfere with response to the public health emergency. A faster means for relaying information on COVID-19 research is required.
Fortunately, a more expedient way to disseminate ongoing research information is already available through the use of preprint servers, such as Elsevier’s SSRN. With preprint server publication, research becomes available online pre–peer review for public review and comment as soon as the server verifies certain standards are met (e.g., content is complete, patient privacy was protected). The time taken between article submission and online publication is much faster, typically in the range of hours to days.
By hosting Covid-19 early stage non-peer reviewed research, SSRN is providing researchers a fast way to share their free research across the global research and health community. The faster we can share Covid-19 research findings, the faster we can curb the spread and help those affected.
Preprint servers have been skeptically viewed by many in the biological and medical science research communities, but these servers provide great advantages. In addition to speed of dissemination, preprint servers give researchers better access to negative results, which most often do not get published, enabling researchers to avoid wasting resources (i.e., time and money) on testing fruitless research prospects. Preprint servers also provide researchers greater access to the insight of scientists across research disciplines, increasing researchers’ abilities to resolve problems and improve research quality. This greater access to information and insight breeds idea creation and speeds the pace of innovation.
Despite these advantages, as well as a few others (e.g., ensuring fairness in the publication process, proving time of discovery for product patenting), many researchers have avoided preprint server publication because of such fears as the possibility of research theft or preprint publication disqualifying work from peer-review journal publication. However, most preprint servers, including SSRN, provide DOIs to timestamp the ownership of the research.
If you are currently evaluating your options regarding where to send your COVID-19 findings, include in your search some preprint servers (e.g., SSRN, ChinaXiv, medRXIV). Posting your research pre–peer review will increase visibility of your findings and amplify your research’s impact.
- SSRN is Elsevier’s world-leading platform dedicated to the rapid worldwide dissemination of early-stage research and preprints. It is committed to making authors’ Covid-19 research available immediately, and it has over 50 pieces of related research from across the world freely available on its site.
- The growing role of preprints was acknowledged in the Ebola and Zika virus outbreaks as a way of “accelerating the dissemination of scientific findings to support responses to infectious disease outbreaks.”
- We encourage authors to share preprints –The Lancet and Cell Press have their own dedicated networks on SSRN. At the same time, we caution that preprints have not benefited from the pivotal role of the peer-review process, which validates and improves the quality of final published journal articles.
- Technological innovation on platforms like SSRN helps researchers share their Covid-19 early-stage work very quickly. They can help us find out who is working in this space and reach out to authors when the science seems strong and important. Access to data and transparency is key when dealing with outbreaks, given the multiple stakeholders.
- We view preprints as a complement to journal publication, and a way for the research community to share information ahead of the important process of peer review. Think of them as similar to sharing information at a conference for discussion but with a broader audience than would be possible at a scientific meeting.
- In addition, Elsevier’s Novel Coronavirus Information Center has been available since January. Here you will find expert, curated information for the research and health community on Covid-19. All resources are free to access and include guidelines for clinicians and patients. Under the ‘Research’ tab you will find the latest early stage and peer-reviewed research from journals including The Lancet and Cell Press, early-stage research on SSRN, as well as a link to the Coronavirus hub on ScienceDirect, where you will find every article relevant article to Coronavirus, SARS, and MERS freely available.