Preprint Feedback is Here
Let’s make it constructive and fast
Editor’s note: Today’s guest post is by Sandra Franco Iborra, Jessica Polka and Iratxe Puebla, members of the ASAPbio preprint review cultural norms Working Group, which has recently developed principles for a positive and constructive culture of review and commenting on preprints. Iborra is the events coordinator for the Danish Data Science Academy. Polka is executive director at ASAPbio while Puebla is director of strategic initiatives & community at ASAPbio.
The potential to get feedback on a preprint is a major benefit of posting one. However, when that feedback is shared publicly, it benefits not only the author, but the entire community. Nowhere has this been more obvious than in COVID-19 preprints. During the pandemic, non-specialized readers are flocking to preprints, creating an environment in which preprints can be misinterpreted or errors can be inappropriately propagated. However, rapid, public responses on the preprinted work can reduce the risk of this happening.
Take the infamous example of the “uncanny similarity” preprint. Posted in the early days of 2020, it suggested a potential link between HIV and SARS-CoV-2. As reported in STAT News, within hours of its appearance, dozens of researchers weighed in via Twitter and the bioRxiv commenting section with their concerns, which gave journalists and general readers context to help prevent the spread of misinformation. The authors subsequently decided to withdraw the paper within 48 hours of its original posting.
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