The MIT Press and UC Berkeley launch Rapid Reviews: COVID-19

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The MIT Press has announced the launch of Rapid Reviews: COVID-19 (RR:C19), an open access, rapid-review overlay journal that will accelerate peer review of Covid-19-related research and deliver real-time, verified scientific information that policymakers and health leaders can use.

Scientists and researchers are working overtime to understand the SARS-CoV-2 virus and are producing an unprecedented amount of preprint scholarship that is publicly available online but has not been vetted yet by peer review for accuracy. Traditional peer review can take four or more weeks to complete, but RR:C19’s editorial team, led by Editor-in-Chief Stefano M. Bertozzi, professor of health policy and management and dean emeritus of the School of Public Health at the University of California at Berkeley, will produce expert reviews in a matter of days.

Using artificial intelligence tools, a global team will identify promising scholarship in preprint repositories, commission expert peer reviews, and publish the results on an open access platform in a completely transparent process. The journal will strive for disciplinary and geographic breadth, sourcing manuscripts from all regions and across a wide variety of fields, including medicine; public health; the physical, biological, and chemical sciences; the social sciences; and the humanities. RR:C19 will also provide a new publishing option for revised papers that are positively reviewed.

Amy Brand, director of the MIT Press sees the no-cost open access model as a way to increase the impact of global research and disseminate high-quality scholarship. “Offering a peer-reviewed model on top of preprints will bring a level of diligence that clinicians, researchers, and others worldwide rely on to make sound judgments about the current crisis and its amelioration,” says Brand. “The project also aims to provide a proof-of-concept for new models of peer-review and rapid publishing for broader applications.”

Made possible by a $350,000 grant from the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation and hosted on PubPub, an open-source publishing platform from the Knowledge Futures Group for collaboratively editing and publishing journals, monographs, and other open access scholarly content, RR:C19 will limit the spread of misinformation about Covid-19, according to Bertozzi.

“There is an urgent need to validate — or debunk — the rapidly growing volume of Covid-19-related manuscripts on preprint servers,” explains Bertozzi. “I’m excited to be working with the MIT Press, the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, and the Knowledge Futures Group to create a novel publishing model that has the potential to more efficiently translate important scientific results into action. We are also working with COVIDScholar, an initiative of UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, to create unique AI/machine learning tools to support the review of hundreds of preprints per week.”

“This project signals a breakthrough in academic publishing, bringing together urgency and scientific rigor so the world’s researchers can rapidly disseminate new discoveries that we can trust,” says Vilas Dhar, trustee of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation. “We are confident the RR:C19 journal will quickly become an invaluable resource for researchers, public health officials, and healthcare providers on the frontline of this pandemic. We’re also excited about the potential for a long-term transformation in how we evaluate and share research across all scientific disciplines.”

On the collaboration around this new journal, Travis Rich, executive director of the Knowledge Futures Group notes, “At a moment when credibility is increasingly crucial to the well-being of society, we’re thrilled to be partnering with this innovative journal to expand the idea of reviews as first-class research objects, both on PubPub and as a model for others.

RR:C19 will publish its first reviews in July 2020 and is actively recruiting potential reviewers and contributors. To learn more about this project and its esteemed editorial board, visit rapidreviewscovid19.mitpress.mit.edu.

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