Rapid Reviews: COVID-19 Journal Publishes First Preprint Studies

The new open access journal from the MIT Press publishes reviews of COVID-19 preprints on the effectiveness of S1-Fc vaccine; neurological side effects of COVID-19; antidepressants and risk of death or intubation; seroprevalence between age groups and sociodemographic differences, and more.


Rapid Reviews: COVID-19 (RR:C19) has posted peer reviews of eight COVID-19 preprint studies in an effort to reduce misinformation and to elevate noteworthy and useful research for scientists, public health officials, journalists, and the public. 

These authoritative reviews cover a wide range of subjects, including:

  • Neurological manifestations associated with COVID-19. Preprint | Review

RRC19 Review Summary: Findings are informative for future intervention studies. Decision-makers should consider the claims in this study actionable with limitations to some methods and data.

  • The effectiveness of the S1-Fc vaccine against COVID-19 live infection. Preprint | Review

RRC19 Review Summary: Given the urgent need for a vaccine, this data is worth publishing, but the study has some defects, including the need for controls to enhance the quality of the study.

  • One of the only large-scale, population-based national serosurveys reported to date, including seroprevalence between age groups and sociodemographic differences. Preprint | Review

RRC19 Review Summary: This study of Brazilian regions makes significant contributions to our understanding of COVID-19.

  • Antidepressants and the risk of death or intubation in patients with COVID-19. Preprint | Review

RRC19 Review Summary: Findings suggest antidepressants may contribute to the treatment of COVID-19, but it would require extensive research to validate the claims.

  • Whether younger Floridians are responsible for transmitting COVID-19 to older Floridians. Preprint | Review

RRC19 Review Summary: The paper adds to existing evidence regarding transmission between age groups, but the argument is not strongly supported because of the model's simplicity and data limitations. 

  • A portable diagnostic platform that will enable real-time case identification and epidemiological surveillance. Preprint | Review

RRC19 Review Summary: This could be an indispensable molecular diagnostic solution for COVID-19. While promising, comparisons are needed.

  • Public health response and early release for incarcerated individuals. Preprint | Review

RRC19 Review Summary: A worthwhile contribution that effectively lays out epidemiological, legal, and moral arguments relevant to prisons. Should be read widely.

  • A study on the unprecedented role of preprints in the pandemic. Preprint | Review

RRC19 Review Summary: Findings on the changing landscape of preprints are robust and informative, though there are some errors and misinterpretations.

COVID-19 research often outpaces traditional peer-reviewed publishing, and with more than 20,000 preprints available across a variety of preprint servers, including medRxiv, bioRxiv, and SSRN, there is an urgent need for scholarly peer review to validate—or debunk—information before it is widely circulated.

For the editorial team, led by editor-in-chief, Stefano M. Bertozzi, Professor of Health Policy and Management and Dean Emeritus of the School of Public Health at University of California Berkeley, it is gratifying to see a mix of papers that are representative of the mission of RR:C19.  

“One important aspect of our mission is its disciplinary inclusivity—and that is reflected in the first round of papers we have reviewed,” explains Bertozzi. “They range from legal/bioethical perspectives to papers across the basic sciences, clinical medicine, and public health. Most of the papers are also quite recent, and thus, would have taken many more weeks to undergo peer review under more traditional models.” 

Bertozzi credits this speed, in part, to an academic network of preprint screeners and a new Natural Language Processing tool developed by COVIDScholar, an initiative of UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab that can quickly scan a large number of preprint repositories and identify relevant items to be peer reviewed. Once two or more reviews are available for a preprint, RR:C19 publishes them on an open access platform in a completely transparent process to make them readily available to journalists writing about promising COVID-19 research and to the public seeking information. 

RR:C19 is made possible by a $350,000 grant from the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation and hosted on PubPub, an open-source publishing platform from the Knowledge Futures Group.

The editorial board for RR:C19 currently includes Paulin Basinga, Gates Foundation; Nancy Birdsall, Center for Global Development;Jeanine Condo, National University of Rwanda; Robert Gallo, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Global Virus Network; Patty Garcia, Cayetano Heredia University, Peru, University of Washington; Dean Jamison, UCSF Institute for Global Health Sciences, Disease Control Priorities Network; Jerome Kim, International Vaccine Institute; Ramanan Laxminarayan, Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy, Princeton University; Santiago Levy, The Brookings Institution; Fenyong Liu, UC Berkeley School of Public Health; Felix Masiye, University of Zambia, University of Washington; Jonna Mazet, One Health Institute, UC Davis, UCSF;Michael Merson, Duke University; Art Reingold, UC Berkeley School of Public Health; Shankar Sastry, UC Berkeley; Mauro Schechter,Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, University of Pittsburgh, Johns Hopkins University; and Kathleen Sikkema, Columbia University School of Public Health. RR:C19 is actively recruiting potential reviewers and contributors.

To learn more about this project and to sign up for future news and alerts, visit rapidreviewscovid19.mitpress.mit.edu