Rapid Reviews for Rapid Outbreak Response

Traditional scientific communication is slow, but outbreaks are fast. We need the best evidence to fight outbreaks, so research findings need to be shared faster, in days not months or years.

Many researchers now post their findings in preprint manuscripts, research articles that have not yet been peer reviewed. These are shared openly and publicly, making the results available almost immediately. During the Ebola and Zika epidemics, preprints accelerated access to data and results by a median of 150 days*. This rapid, open sharing is a major step forward, but also poses new challenges.

As more research is shared first in preprints, it will be harder for public health officials, scientists, media, and journal publishers to identify the most important and useful research. Rapid reviews can help fill this gap. Many scientists already read preprints, but there is currently no way to share structured feedback that could benefit the authors and others.

Outbreak Science is partnering with PREreview, an organization focused on bolstering peer review for preprints, to address this challenge. Together, with support from the Wellcome Trust, we will build a system for scientists to provide rapid, structured reviews of preprints.

Rapid reviews will be immediate and open to all, ensuring that everyone has access to both the research and the context provided by reviews. If you’re a scientist and you read a preprint, it will just take a couple extra minutes to help guide others to important data, methods, and results. To find out more, follow us on Twitter (@outbreaksci and @PREreview_) and stay tuned through 2019 as we develop and deploy new tools. You can also try our prototype. Review summaries will be posted on @outbreaksci and your feedback will help us in the next steps of development.

*Johansson MA, Reich NG, Meyers LA, Lipsitch M (2018) Preprints: An underutilized mechanism to accelerate outbreak science. PLoS Med 15(4): e1002549. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002549