Preprints important for outbreaks

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Researchers at Puerto Rico-based non-profit Outbreak Science have suggested that preprint research – that which is not reviewed before being made public – is underused in disease outbreaks.

Dr Michael A. Johansson and colleagues conducted a literature review and found that many more preprint manuscripts were posted during the Zika virus epidemic than during the Ebola virus epidemic. They said that preprints remain undervalued and are excluded from outbreak science in favour of peer review.

The researchers said that preprints give experts an early opportunity to critique the research. “The scientific community should not ask why preprints are posted during outbreaks,” the team wrote in PLOS Medicine, “we should ask why they are not posted and make early posting the standard rather than the exception.”

According to the team, ‘preprints offer numerous challenges and opportunities for science in general but represent a particularly important opportunity to accelerate the dissemination of science in the midst of infectious disease outbreaks, when early actions are critical, and evidence is scarce’.