Guest post – Update: COVID-19 Rapid Reviewers Collaboration

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C19RR – what we learned in 2020 and what we aim to do in 2021

This post is by Sarah Greaves, Independent Consultant & Phil Hurst, Publisher, The Royal Society

We’ve all seen huge change in 2020 especially in publishing, and one initiative many of us have been involved with is the COVID-19 Rapid Reviewers collaboration, endorsed by OASPA. As we end 2020 and see a shift in the research being submitted and published on Sars-Cov2 from basic research to clinical trials we’ve taken a step back to look at what we’ve achieved, what we aimed to achieve and what we’re aiming to do in 2021.

At the beginning we were a group of seven publishers, CCC and PREreview and we were keen to do something. That something formulated quite quickly into addressing the pressing need to find reviewers of C19 papers, look to transfer declined papers to alternative journal publishers if authors wanted to transfer and to report on what we’d found. Now at the beginning of 2021 we have grown into a group of over 20 publishers and industry endorsers and we’ve come quite a long way.

It’s clear the call to find researchers who would commit to being a rapid reviewer was successful – we now have over 2000 from around the globe and many signed up quickly at the start committing to fast review and transferring reports to other publishers if required. We also saw the group of publishers and journals involved grow rapidly, and the endorsers of the initiative expand to include preprint servers and the Research on Research Institute (RoRI).  

But we’d all agree we haven’t been as successful using our reviewers as we’d have liked – and we’re currently trying to understand why. We’ve also been unsuccessful in encouraging authors to transfer papers between publishers – another mystery we’re aiming to unpick.

Where we have seen success is in working together as a group of industry experts and finding collaborative, and collegial, ways to reach consensus. We’ve also extended our aims to work more closely with PREreview and RoRi so we can both encourage our rapid reviewers to help comment on and filter preprints that are ready for more formal journal review and also to increase our ability to report on our findings. More importantly we continue to make progress as a group on key open science issues and on January 20th 2021 we will announce our collective data deposition mandate for the original journals in the group – which has meant change for some of those publications. The other journals in the group aim to implement this during 2021. This shows we can all work together from across the industry to improve how we collaborate on open science in a way which works for the academic community.  

During 2021 we will continue to work with PREreview & RoRI and we aim to report our findings one year after our group came together. In the coming months we also hope to announce new developments with PREreview and report on surveys we’ve run with Editors and Authors from across the collaboration. 

We encourage more journals to join the group – especially those in the social science space – as we continue to work together to support researchers in publishing C19 research. Beyond this, we hope to inspire further collaboration in the publishing community to address issues impacting scholarly communication. Please get in touch if you want to learn more, or join the collaboration – we’re keen to welcome more members into the group.

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COVID-19 Rapid Review Collaboration Initiative Hub

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