Scientific, medical journals adopt new processes to review, publish studies faster

NEW DELHI, July 10: Under pressure from the flood of studies submitted to them during the COVID-19 pandemic, medical and scientific journals are adopting new processes, including seeking help of volunteer rapid reviewers, to scrutinise the research articles and expedite the process by which they are reviewed, experts say.
Citing an example of the current burden on journals, Howard Bauchner, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), noted that from January to June, 2020 over 11,000 manuscripts were submitted to the publication, compared to about 4,000 submitted during the same period in 2019.
When a study manuscript is submitted to an academic journal, as part of the peer-review process, experts in the field are asked to evaluate its scientific validity, offer insight into its impact, and provide opinion of its worthiness for publication.
“The substantive evaluation by, and opinions from reviewers with subject matter knowledge and with methodological and statistical expertise are invaluable in assessing the scientific rigor and plausibility of study findings,” Bauchner and his colleagues noted in an editorial published in JAMA last month.
However, experts, including Ritu Dhand, Vice President, Editorial, Nature Journals, said the pandemic has made the process even more challenging.
“This volume and the speed with which research is being produced is certainly challenging for all parties involved in the assessment and publication of research,” Dhand said in an email.
Jennifer Zeis, Director, Communications at the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) noted that the peer-review duration has shrunk.
“The process has not changed for COVID-19, other than review deadlines are expedited,” she said in an email.
Many experts say this need for speed amidst the pandemic is leading to faulty research getting published. For instance, two COVID-19 studies were retracted from the high profile journals The Lancet and NEJM in May, after more than 100 scientists questioned their validity.
Commenting on the retractions, Elisabeth Bik, a microbiologist and leading expert in the analysis of images used in published studies, said these could be the result of hastened reviewing of research manuscripts. (PTI)