Image: Polka, Jessica K., & Penfold, Naomi C. (2020). Biomedical preprints per month, by source and as a fraction of total literature (Version 1.0) [Data set]. Zenodo. http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3668745, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
Preprints are providing a much needed space for innovation in scholarly communications and addressing outbreaks such as the coronavirus global epidemic is accelerating this process. The platform Outbreak Science Rapid PREreview adds a technology layer across preprint servers to enable a more rapid review process of outbreak-related preprints. Such a novel approach to review means that experts can add a quality filter to the flood of posted preprints.
The coronavirus epidemic has driven an unprecedented embrace of preprints, with 423 COVID-19 preprints posted since the onset of the epidemic across the preprint servers bioRxiv, medRxiv, and arXiv as of 10 March, 2020.
Just a few weeks before the coronavirus outbreak was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization, our team released the first version of Outbreak Science Rapid PREreview (OSrPRE, https://outbreaksci.prereview.org), an open source platform for the crowdsourcing of reviews of outbreak-related preprints.
Invite to review or suggest papers
In 2019, we received funding from the Wellcome Trust to design and develop a tool to give researchers and other public health practitioners involved in the response to outbreaks access to a free and rapid way to provide timely feedback to preprints during an outbreak.
We began the work in February 2019, by convening in London a group of people with diverse expertise and backgrounds related to public health research and outbreak responses. Together, with help of user research experts at the non-profit organization Simply Secure (https://simplysecure.org), we spent two days brainstorming needs, formats, and workflows of who we identified as the primary target users for the platform: academic researchers.
This initial work helped us develop the roadmap for the software project and led to the release of the first version of the website on 1 January, 2020. The project is open source and the code is released under the MIT licence on PREreview’s GitHub.
On the website or via the available Chrome or Firefox extension, researchers with ORCID iDs can either request feedback from the community or provide feedback on any given preprint published across preprint servers (currently limited to bioRxiv, medRxiv, and arXiv).
This feedback is done in the form of what we call rapid reviews, open (but with the option of being anonymous) and structured high-level reviews designed to capture the importance and quality of the research. Rapid reviews by different reviewers are aggregated and visualized across many reviews.
To learn more about features and functionalities of the platform, please refer to this blog post.
Call for collaborations and contributions
The API also allows other platforms to integrate with OSrPRE, to add the ability to submit requests for reviews and to disseminate review content. This would allow a preprint server, for example, to enable preprint authors to solicit rapid reviews at the time of submission.
If you represent a preprint server or another entity interested in learning more about how to integrate your platform with OSrPRE, please visit the API documentation on our website and/or contact us at email@example.com with any questions.
As the number of outbreak-related preprints continues to increase, we are asking researchers with the relevant expertise to help review them on OSrPRE and spread the word among their networks.
Finally, our team at PREreview is looking for an individual or team with backend and frontend web development experience for a 4-6-month contract to work with us on the next version of the open source PREreview platform (https://prereview.org). Details about the work and the position will soon be made public on the PREreview (https://content.prereview.org) and Code for Science & Society blogs (https://blog.codeforscience.org/). In the meantime, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in this position or have questions.
This is an open project funded by the Wellcome Trust Open Research Fund. This project is a collaboration between PREreview and Outbreak Science. Outbreak Science is a non-profit organization aiming to advance the science of outbreak response.
We thank Dr. Naomi Penfold for introducing us to Dr. Michael Johansson, Founder and Director of Outbreak Science and collaborator on this project.
OSrPRE was developed by Sebastien Ballesteros (GitHub) and Erik Wysocan (portfolio website), open source developers from the sci.pe team. We thank them for their professionalism, competence, and for building a platform that reflects our vision.
User research is conducted in partnership with Simply Secure. We thank Simply Secure’s Executive Director, Georgia Bullen for her guidance and support in making researchers the focus of this effort. We also thank all the researchers who generously volunteered their time to help us better understand their needs and improve the platform.