The increased demand for timely scientific information, especially related to COVID-19 this year, has put a spotlight on the slow nature of traditional publishing. The pandemic response requires a level of efficiency and quickness that traditional publishing, which has changed very little in 70-years, simply can’t handle. We saw a surge in scholarly and scientific data published this year that strained these traditional systems at a time when information on the virus could not only improve our response but also save lives. The sheer volume of data can further gum up a bureaucratically slow process. In fact, one journal said they were flooded with a year’s worth of submissions in 90 days!
Traditional publishing starts with a narrative manuscript, then moves to editors and peer reviewers before printing and indexing. This process, which normally takes weeks or months, has accelerated this year. But with some highly publicized retractions in peer-reviewed publications recently, the effectiveness of these processes, particularly during a global crisis, are being questioned.
The magnitude of the global emergency has strongly bolstered calls to make the entire research and publishing lifecycle transparent and open. While much of the scientific literature is moving to open access, a greater portion of data is pay-to-play. Science Direct comments, “An open exchange of ideas accelerates scientific progress towards solving humanity’s most persistent problems.”
The publishing processes are changing and evolving from the stagnation that has slowed workflows into a dogged process. We can expect to see COVID-19–driven technology innovation in scholarly communication, alternative bibliometrics, and artificial intelligence that will further transform academic publishing in the near future.
Need for speed
Studies tell us that the median submission-to-acceptance time for COVID-19 articles is just six days, as opposed to a median of 93 days for submissions in 2019. Accelerated publishing is important, but Nature poses the question, “Nonetheless, the remarkable speed and rate of publication of COVID-19 research raises concerns about the quality of the evidence base and about the risk of misinformation being spread with harmful consequences.”
How are some journals accommodating a faster publishing time?
- Many journals regularly offer a fast-track review and publishing process for authors. Could they use this same process for rapid publishing of COVID-19 articles as well?
- Some journals are adopting process changes to better manage their influx of article submissions.
- Some are leveraging internal resources with relevant experience to review content versus relying solely on external peer reviews.
- Volunteer reviewers have been called upon to help manage the workload.
- Some journal publishing groups have banded together to facilitate rapid reviews, using a shared list of reviewers.
- Many publishers suggest that their authors publish their COVID-19 articles as pre-prints.
All of these efforts aim to improve process efficiencies and maintain the scholarly integrity of the publications.
New era of scholarly publishing
What will this new age of scholarly publishing look like after we’ve learned all of the lessons COVID-19 has to teach us? Publishing, like the rest of the world, will continue to change to include more rapid dissemination of information, streamlined peer review, and rapid publication. Look for journals to continue to leverage technology to automate and streamline the publishing process, including formatting.
Sheridan Select™ has already embraced the new era of scholarly publishing. This tool offers publishers a single dashboard to manage all of your journal and print needs. It is a great resource for expedited printing and distribution that can position your team to stay prepared for the challenges soon to come.
Contact your Sheridan representative for a consultation or visit our contact page to learn how Sheridan experts can help streamline and simplify your publishing processes.