No revolution: COVID-19 boosted open access, but preprints are only a fraction of pandemic papers | Science | AAAS

By Jeffrey Brainard

In January 2020, as COVID-19 spread insidiously, research funders and journal publishers recognized their old ways wouldn’t do. They needed to hit the gas pedal to meet the desperate need for information that could help slow the disease.

One major funder, the Wellcome Trust, issued a call for changing business as usual. Authors should put up COVID-19 manuscripts as preprints, it urged, because those are publicly posted shortly after they’re written, before being peer reviewed. Scientists should share their data widely. And publishers should make journal articles open access, or free to read immediately when published.

Dozens of the world’s leading funders, publishers, and scientific societies (including AAAS, publisher of Science) signed Wellcome’s statement. Critics of the tradition-bound world of scientific publishing saw a rare opportunity to tackle long-standing complaints—for example, that journals place many papers behind paywalls and take months to complete peer review. They hoped the pandemic could help birth a new publishing system.

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