The Risks of COVID-19 Pre-print Data

November 29, 2020
Kevin Kunzmann

Kevin Kunzmann is the managing editor for Contagion, as well as its sister publication HCPLive. Prior to joining parent company MJH Life Sciences in 2017, he worked as a health care and government reporter for The Pocono Record, and as a freelance writer for NJ Advance Media, The Express-Times, The Daily Journal, and more. He graduated from Rowan University with a degree in journalism in 2015. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, cooking, running his dog, and complaining about the Mets. Follow him on Twitter @NotADoctorKevin or email him at [email protected]

Articles not undergoing peer review are reaching widespread dissemination during the pandemic. What are the implications?

A recent research letter conducted by a team of US investigators compared articles about therapies for coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) posted on a preprint server, subsequent medical journals publishing of some of these articles, and journal articles that were not posted on either this server or another.

The investigators, led by Neil Schluger, MD, of the New York Medical College, observed that many articles which had not undergone traditional peer review were already subject to widespread dissemination.

The research letter also found that articles posted as non journal-published preprints received less attention from the public that those that were published.

In an interview with Contagion, Schluger discussed his team’s findings, the implication of an ongoing rush to COVID-19 data-sharing and dissemination, and the overall responsibility of clinicians and media alike to assure that messaging is comprehensive, informed, measured, and helpful for a lay audience that suddenly finds itself heavily invested in clinical academics.

“You do a research article, you publish it in a journal, and you think, ‘Okay, that’s truth, and the whole world is going to change’,” Schluger said. “Then you realize that no one reads those things—they’re inaccessible to many people because they’re written in highly technical language.”