‘Peer-reviewed preprints’ will offer guide to quality, says eLife

Proliferation of preprints in Covid era has led non-profit publisher to post reviews from clinicians on online papers

June 17, 2021
peer review paper
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The open-access journal eLife is introducing a new system of “refereed preprints” in which papers posted on the medRxiv server are publicly reviewed by clinicians and medical academics.

In a relaunch of its medical section, the not-for-profit publisher is aiming to provide users of medRxiv with detailed assessments of clinical preprints posted on the site, including comments on a preprint’s potential impact and perspectives on its use.

The move follows the rocketing use of the preprints during the pandemic, with some 30,000 Covid-19 preprints published in 2020 alone, with more than half appearing one of three sites: medRxiv, which launched in June 2019, SSRN and Research Square, according to Nature.

But the deluge of Covid preprints has also sparked concerns about rapid, author-driven publications being picked up by the media or public prior to adequate scientific scrutiny, and some worry that quality papers have been overlooked amid the sheer volume of outputs.

“By providing this rich and rapid evaluation of new results, eLife hopes peer-reviewed preprints will become a reliable indicator of quality in medical research, rather than journal impact factor,” eLife said in a statement posted on 16 June.

Diane Harper, eLife’s deputy editor, commented: “With the growing number of medical preprints appearing online, it makes sense to have a system for reviewing them that allows readers to see at a glance whether new results are trustworthy.

“For authors, it’s great to be able to offer this solution for having their work published and reviewed as quickly as possible, especially when their findings may have important implications for human health,” she added.

The move is part of a wider shift that, from July, will see the publisher exclusively review preprints that are published on a preprint server and also submitted to eLife for peer review.

In addition to publicly reviewing those preprints, it will provide the authors with feedback from its reviewers and editors through its usual consultative peer-review process, and it will select a subset of those papers for formal publication in the eLife journal.

There is no additional cost for this process beyond its $3,000 (£2,127) article publication fee.


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