Authors : Diego Añazco, Bryan Nicolalde, Isabel Espinosa, Jose Camacho , Mariam Mushtaq, Jimena Gimenez, Enrique Teran
Preprints are preliminary reports that have not been peer-reviewed. In December 2019, a novel coronavirus appeared in China, and since then, scientific production, including preprints, has drastically increased. In this study, we intend to evaluate how often preprints about COVID-19 were published in scholarly journals and cited.
We searched the iSearch COVID-19 portfolio to identify all preprints related to COVID-19 posted on bioRxiv, medRxiv, and Research Square from January 1, 2020, to May 31, 2020. We used a custom-designed program to obtain metadata using the Crossref public API.
After that, we determined the publication rate and made comparisons based on citation counts using non-parametric methods. Also, we compared the publication rate, citation counts, and time interval from posting on a preprint server to publication in a scholarly journal among the three different preprint servers.
Our sample included 5,061 preprints, out of which 288 were published in scholarly journals and 4,773 remained unpublished (publication rate of 5.7%). We found that articles published in scholarly journals had a significantly higher total citation count than unpublished preprints within our sample (p < 0.001), and that preprints that were eventually published had a higher citation count as preprints when compared to unpublished preprints (p < 0.001).
As well, we found that published preprints had a significantly higher citation count after publication in a scholarly journal compared to as a preprint (p < 0.001). Our results also show that medRxiv had the highest publication rate, while bioRxiv had the highest citation count and shortest time interval from posting on a preprint server to publication in a scholarly journal.
We found a remarkably low publication rate for preprints within our sample, despite accelerated time to publication by multiple scholarly journals. These findings could be partially attributed to the unprecedented surge in scientific production observed during the COVID-19 pandemic, which might saturate reviewing and editing processes in scholarly journals.
However, our findings show that preprints had a significantly lower scientific impact, which might suggest that some preprints have lower quality and will not be able to endure peer-reviewing processes to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.