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Time of Preprints

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the preprint site medRxiv has taken off, writes Inside Higher Ed.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Yale University, and BMJ launched the site in 2019 with the aim of creating an arXiv- or bioXriv-like preprint server for medical and health science manuscripts. 

The site at first had a slow uptake — which IHE says its developers expected — but now, with the pandemic, its use has exploded. "In January 2020 we got 240 manuscripts," John Inglis, the co-founder of the site from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, tells IHE. "In May of 2020 we got 2,400."

IHE notes medRxiv became stricter along the way. At first, preprints underwent screening for plagiarism and ethical lapses and could be rejected if they might cause alarm. As the pandemic progressed, IHE says it stopped, for instance, allowing papers based only on computer modeling. Still, critics say preprint servers can enable flawed papers to gain traction, but proponents note preprints can enable research to move more quickly, it adds.

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