In:  Peer Review  

Rapid publishing and open peer review accelerating research communication in times of crisis

The Zika virus is an international public health emergency, as declared early on in February by the World Health Organisation. As such, it is critical that the global research community help combat this threat as rapidly and efficiently as possible. This is a case when science can quite literally save lives.

Recently, an article on the host-vector ratio in the Zika virus was published on the arXiv, a platform for articles often called ‘preprints’. This means that the work has not yet been peer reviewed, and is also not available to comment on the arXiv itself due to functional constraints. The paper is stuck in the hidden, timeless limbo of peer review until its eventual emergence as a paper or ultimate rejection.

ScienceOpen harvests the entire content of the arXiv. The research paper is already within our platform, part of a Collection of research articles on the Zika virus (at the top there!), and available for professional and public post-publication peer review, along with more than 100 other related research articles. If we want this research to have the most impact, it needs to be both rapidly communicated and rapidly verified by the research community.

Waiting for two (or more) referees, possibly several rounds of review, and then journal production systems are simply inefficient for the rapid dissemination of research. This is where post-publication peer review comes in. All that is needed is for expert verification from someone (anyone!) within the entire research community before we can be confident enough in the published work for it to be re-used to combat the Zika threat. The open verification from potentially the entire research community is much more valuable than the closed, exclusive process of traditional peer review. If the research requires additional work, this can be layered on top through simple version control at the arXiv. What matters is having a rapid, open publication and verification process.

What it doesn’t need prior to communication is a laborious review process, type-setting, copy editing, pagination (etc.), and waiting in line to be filtered into an issue before it can be put to use. In times of international health emergencies, this process can cost lives. The science is out there for re-use by the research community and more broadly, and that is what matters.

This extends beyond times of crisis too. We should be working efficiently as a global research community to ensure that we are accelerating research rapidly and efficiently, where quality isn’t an arbitrary label, and objective verification isn’t confined to an opaque, secretive, and closed system.

All research articles on the Zika Virus are free to publish with ScienceOpen.