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More and More Preprints

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered how scientific research is disseminated, as more papers are initially appearing as preprints, the Economist reports

It notes that preprints have been a mainstay of mathematics and physics research and have slowly become more prevalent in biology and related fields. The pandemic, though, has boosted the number of preprints as clinicians and policymakers clamor for more information about the virus. According to the Economist, there have been more than 2,850 articles about SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 posted to BioRxiv or MedRxiv.

This fast pace, it says, also brings up worries about unreliable studies slipping through, noting that a preprint purporting to show similarities between SARS-CoV-2 and HIV has fueled conspiracy theories. The Economist notes, though, that researchers criticized that study, leading to it being withdrawn, and that peer-reviewed articles aren't immune to such errors.

"Scholarly communication seems to be at an inflection point," the Economist writes. "Like many other things until recently taken for granted, it may never return to the way it was before SARS-CoV-2 came along."