Coronavirus tests scientific need for speed limits

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On February 2, the day after Dr. Inglis discovered the swarm on Twitter around the study comparing H.I.V. and the coronavirus, Indian researchers withdrew their document after other scientists overturned its findings.

Faced with the misuse by the public of the conclusions of the Indian team, Dr. Inglis and Dr. Sever decided to add a notice more visible to readers than what was already on the site for those who did not know can -be not prepublications.

Now, a yellow banner on each bioRxiv manuscript warns readers that the articles on the coronaviruses on the site are “preliminary reports that have not been peer reviewed. They should not be considered conclusive, should guide clinical practice / health behaviors, nor be reported in the media as established information. “

But in the weeks that followed, there were more challenges.

A manuscript to medRxiv published on March 10 stated that transmission of the new coronavirus by respiratory secretions in the form of droplets or aerosols “appears to be probable”. A few days later, the authors put online a second version which removed this language. The following week, the New England Journal of Medicine published a peer-reviewed version of the article. But by then, many press articles had been written based on versions of the document that had not been reviewed by other scientists.

Dr. Inglis and colleagues at bioRxiv and medRxiv have placed more limits on submissions for coronaviruses. On bioRxiv, scientists specializing in epidemics take a look at these articles. Since mid-February, they have rejected manuscripts which suggest possible treatments for coronaviruses solely based on computer modeling.

Some authors who refuse publication on the servers are naturally disappointed. “We might have been more willing to accept this kind of work in the past,” said Dr. Inglis, “but now people are so desperate that things work, I think it is perfectly fine. for us to raise the bar to show more evidence. . ”

These problems are not limited to preprint servers. Peer-reviewed journals are also receiving more submissions on the new coronavirus, and reviewers are studying them at breakneck speed. “All the major newspapers were quickly lit,” said Dr. Topol.

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