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Preprints and Peer Review in a Pandemic

Bloomberg COVID-19 Forum

Preprints and Peer Review in a Pandemic

Friday, September 11, 2020
2:00 - 3:00 p.m. EDT

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the research publishing landscape as scientists investigate and try to understand the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the complex disease it causes. This has led to unprecedented volume and speed in scientific publishing.

Academic journal submissions have increased manyfold, accelerating peer review and stretching journals’ editorial and production capacity. There's also been an explosion in preprints, manuscripts researchers post to online servers such as medRxiv and bioRxiv before submitting to journals for formal peer review. As of August 31, 2020, the two preprint servers had together published over 8,000 preprints on COVID-19-related research.

And, for the first time, journalists are reporting on preprints, putting them center stage before they’ve undergone traditional peer review. The upshot is the self-correcting preprint process that used to take place among researchers off the media grid is now unfolding on social media and in news coverage before peer review. With this speed comes errors. Notably, there have been several high-profile retractions involving coronavirus- and COVID-19-related studies in both preprint servers and peer-reviewed journals.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has invited leading experts—a journal editor, the co-founder of a preprint server, and a science journalist—to discuss the risks and rewards of scientific publishing in this urgent and fast-paced environment. Moderated by Bloomberg School Vice Dean for Research Gregory D. Kirk, MD, PhD '03, MPH '95, with concluding comments from Bloomberg School Dean Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD '79, ScM '75, panelists will also address the importance of preserving public trust in science despite inconsistencies, retractions, and corrections, and how this new research-publishing dynamic might transform scientific publishing forever.


  • Howard Bauchner, MD
    Editor-in-Chief, JAMA and the JAMA Network
  • Emily S. Gurley, PhD '12, MPH
    Co-Founder, Novel Coronavirus Research Compendium (NCRC)
    Associate Scientist, Department of Epidemiology
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Harlan Krumholz, MD, SM
    Founder, medRxiv
    Harold H. Hines Jr. Professor of Medicine in Cardiology, Yale School of Medicine
    Director, Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation
    Yale-New Haven Hospital
  • Carl Zimmer
    Columnist for The New York Times, currently working on the COVID-19 team
    Author of thirteen books, lecturer on topics including evolution, biotechnology, and science denialism
    Adjunct Professor in Science Writing, Yale University
  • Gregory D. Kirk, MD, PhD '03, MPH '95
    Vice Dean for Research
    Professor, Department of Epidemiology
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD '79, ScM '75
    Bloomberg Distinguished Professor
    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Johns Hopkins University’s clinicians and researchers specializing in global public health, infectious disease, and emergency preparedness have been at the forefront of the international response to the coronavirus outbreak by advancing the understanding of the virus, informing the public, and briefing policymakers to guide the response, improve care, and save lives. Stay up to date on the latest expert insights from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and get notified about future webcasts by subscribing to our Expert Insights Newsletter, delivered Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

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