bioRxiv launches a new preprint repository for clinical researchers
The founders of the biology preprint server bioRxiv have launched a new preprint repository for clinical researchers called medRxiv, which will allow them to share their research work before it is peer reviewed. The server has started accepting submissions and will be live by the end of the month.
Preprint servers have been received well in disciplines like physics and biology, but such repositories have been unavailable for medical research, reports an article published in Nature. This prompted the sponsors of bioRxiv - Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York and publisher The BMJ - to create a platform that allows sharing of clinical research manuscripts before they are published in peer reviewed journals.
Scientists in the field have been hesitant to adopt preprints for the fear of making unscrutinized clinical research public, which could have negative implications on public health. To address these concerns, MedRxiv has established several safety measures, an article published in Science notes. These measures are listed below:
- The repository requires authors to submit details about ethical reviews, consent from the patients involved in clinical trials, clinical trial registration, and funding sources. The repository will also have a withdrawal process in case any submission has ethical issues.
- The submitted manuscripts will be examined by external clinical scientists and a professional medical editor.
- It will be mentioned on the website as well as on individual preprints that the research is not peer reviewed and should not be used in medical treatments. Medical journalists are also expected to be careful while writing about such research.
Pointing out that medical science is different from other disciplines, David Maslove, a clinician-scientist at the Kingston General Health Research Institute in Canada said that, “There may be more public interest in medical studies and people may be more motivated to seek out and act on new information about treatment for certain diseases.”
As a safety measure, therefore, MedRxiv will refrain from publishing research that is sensitive in nature or has serious health implications like research about side effects of drugs, vaccine safety, or consumption of certain medicines, says John Inglis, executive director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press and co-founder of medRxiv.
Advocates of preprints opine that posting research on preprints will speed up scientific discovery as it will enable researchers to avoid peer review process, which is usually time consuming. It will also allow researchers to receive feedback on their work sooner as well as communicate any negative findings. According to Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, preprints can be especially useful in circulating information rapidly and free of cost among scientists at times of crisis such as an outbreak of a deadly virus.
What do you think about this latest development? How do you think the use of preprints can be made safe for public health and scientific discovery at large? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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