Medical Journal of Dr. D.Y. Patil Vidyapeeth

COMMENTARY
Year
: 2021  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 117--118

The publication “pandemic”: Another new normal?


Riniki Sarma, Nishkarsh Gupta 
 Department of Onco.Anaesthesia and Palliative Medicine, Dr. BRAIRCH, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Nishkarsh Gupta
Department of Onco.Anaesthesia and Palliative Medicine, Dr. BRAIRCH, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi
India




How to cite this article:
Sarma R, Gupta N. The publication “pandemic”: Another new normal?.Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth 2021;14:117-118


How to cite this URL:
Sarma R, Gupta N. The publication “pandemic”: Another new normal?. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Apr 13 ];14:117-118
Available from: https://www.mjdrdypv.org/text.asp?2021/14/2/117/310718


Full Text



Along with the progressive rise in the number of COVID-19-infected cases, the world witnessed another pandemic – that of “publication” storm. A simple search of PubMed with the word SARS-COV-2 generated 99,226 publications and over 4500 trials registered to ClinicalTrials.gov.[1] In light of these findings, it is not wrong to assume that all the data that is being published may not be accurate. Publication of such inaccurate data may lead to dilution of the actual aim that is to disseminate correct knowledge about this new disease. The editorial published in this issue also highlights the same.[2]

There seems to be a rush in conducting research, peer-reviewing, and publishing which has led to a rise in the number of retractions as well as corrections.[3] The median time to publication decreased from 100 to 6 days in some journals. Rapid publication ensures that the scientific community, as well as the general public, is exposed to new evidence at the earliest. However while conducting such rapid reviews one must not weaken the evidence itself. Both The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine in their respective editorials have highlighted similar concerns and questioned the quality and reliability of their data.[4],[5] On account of this, the World Health Organization had to decide on suspending the hydroxychloroquine arm of the SOLIDARITY trial. The consequences of publishing such data can be disastrous for the general public and question the publication ethics of both researchers and journals. Retractions can be avoided by using various tools such as state of the art plagiarism software and improved quality of peer review. It has been observed that high impact journals publish most of these articles. This can be attributed to the desire of these journals to disseminate data the earliest, maintain their role in a scientific crisis scenario as well as the aspiration of authors to improve their CVs by publishing in such journals. Nevertheless, it was seen that these reputable journals “lowered” their acceptance standards and published articles that would not have otherwise been “accepted” by them. There has been a massive rise in the number of articles released in various preprint platforms before peer-review. Although prepublication peer review is generally robust, many authors were forced to withdraw their articles because of inconsistencies in their data. Maximum numbers of articles published during the pandemic are available in open-access. This means that they are available free of charge to all thus making reception ad transfer of new evidence easier. It is also prudent to mention here that epidemiologists and health workers belonging to the infectious disease stream have become the new source of knowledge on this disease and have made them the new “pandemic experts.”

Most of the public policies being formulated during this period are based on the findings of such research. Various governments have been emphasizing specific treatment for COVID-19 which was contrary to WHO recommendation. Researchers also get pressurized in this type of situation s to publish skewed data.[6] Well-designed systematic reviews are important to cope up with the explosion of information. However, it has been found that this aspect is also diluted when it comes to systematic reviews of COVID-19 data. Medical journals are overwhelmed with manuscripts in all forms, most of them being opinions. At the same time, the public and press are unable to differentiate between fake news and solid science. Social media platforms only act as amplifiers in this scenario leading to more harm than good.

We hope that research journals will only strive for a fair and rigorous peer review in a reasonable amount of time depending on the clinical urgency. The dissemination of such a huge volume of research in a short time in times of a pandemic should pave way for innovative thinking without compromising on the quality of data. A dual-track review for pandemic and nonpandemic manuscripts can be undertaken by the journals to Fastrack publications needing early production.

References

1NCBI SARS-CoV-2 Resources. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sars-cov-2/. [Last accessed on 2020 Feb 01].
2Science in the Time of Corona: That Uneasy Feeling; January, 2001. Available from: https://www.mjdrdypv.org/preprintarticle.asp?id=308218==#ref2. [Last accessedon 2020 Feb 01].
3Oransky AI. Look Back at Retraction News in 2020 – And Ahead to 2021. Retraction Watch; 2020; Available from: https://retractionwatch.com/2020/12/31/a-look-back-at-retraction-news-in-2020-and-ahead-to-2021/. [Last accessed on 2020 Feb 01].
4The Lancet Editors. Expression of concern: Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: A multinational registry analysis. Lancet 2020;395:e102.
5Rubin EJ. Expression of concern: Mehra MR, et al. Cardiovascular disease, drug therapy, and mortality in Covid-19. N Engl J Med. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2007621. N Engl J Med. 202018;382:2464.
6Abbasi K. Covid-19: Politicisation, “corruption,” and suppression of science. BMJ 2020;371:m4425.