The MIT Press and UC Berkeley launch Rapid Reviews: COVID-19 journal

The new open access, rapid-review overlay journal aims to combat misinformation in COVID-19 research



CAMBRIDGE, MA – June 29, 2020–The MIT Press announced today the launch of Rapid Reviews: COVID-19 (RR:C19), an open access, rapid-review overlay journal that will accelerate peer review of COVID-19-related research and deliver real-time, verified scientific information that policymakers and health leaders can use.

Scientists and researchers are working overtime to understand the SARS-CoV-2 virus and are producing an unprecedented amount of preprint scholarship that is publicly available online but has not been vetted yet by peer review for accuracy. Traditional peer review can take four or more weeks to complete, but RR:C19’s 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, will produce expert reviews in a matter of days.

Using artificial intelligence tools, a global team will identify promising scholarship in preprint repositories, commission expert peer reviews, and publish the results on an open access platform in a completely transparent process. The journal will strive for disciplinary and geographic breadth, sourcing manuscripts from all regions and across a wide variety of fields, including medicine; public health; the physical, biological, and chemical sciences; the social sciences; and the humanities. RR:C19 will also provide a new publishing option for revised papers that are positively reviewed.

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 for collaboratively editing and publishing journals, monographs, and other open access scholarly content, RR:C19 will limit the spread of misinformation about COVID-19, according to editor-in-chief Bertozzi.

“There is an urgent need to validate–or debunk–the rapidly growing volume of COVID-19-related manuscripts on preprint servers,” explains Bertozzi. “I’m excited to be working with the MIT Press, the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, and the Knowledge Futures Group to create a novel publishing model that has the potential to more efficiently translate important scientific results into action. We are also working with COVIDScholar, an initiative of UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, to create unique AI/machine learning tools to support the review of hundreds of preprints per week.”

“This project signals a breakthrough in academic publishing, bringing together urgency and scientific rigor so the world’s researchers can rapidly disseminate new discoveries that we can trust,” says Vilas Dhar, trustee of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation. “We are confident the RR:C19 journal will quickly become an invaluable resource for researchers, public health officials, and healthcare providers on the frontline of this pandemic. We’re also excited about the potential for a long-term transformation in how we evaluate and share research across all scientific disciplines.”

On the collaboration around this new journal, Travis Rich, executive director of the Knowledge Futures Group notes, “At a moment when credibility is increasingly crucial to the well-being of society, we’re thrilled to be partnering with this innovative journal to expand the idea of reviews as first-class research objects, both on PubPub and as a model for others.”

Amy Brand, director of the MIT Press sees the no-cost open access model as a way to increase the impact of global research and disseminate high-quality scholarship. “Offering a peer-reviewed model on top of preprints will bring a level of diligence that clinicians, researchers, and others worldwide rely on to make sound judgments about the current crisis and its amelioration,” says Brand. “The project also aims to provide a proof-of-concept for new models of peer-review and rapid publishing for broader applications.”

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; Dean Jamison, University of Washington; Jerome Kim, International Vaccine Institute; Santiago Levy, The Brookings Institution; Fenyong Liu, UC Berkeley; Felix Masiye, University of Zambia, University of Washington; Jonna Mazet, UC Davis; Shankar Sastry, UC Berkeley; and Mauro Schechter, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, University of Pittsburgh, Johns Hopkins University. RR:C19 will publish its first reviews in July 2020 and is actively recruiting potential reviewers and contributors.

To learn more about this project, visit:


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max hugoson
June 29, 2020 6:17 pm

Not that impressed. A method to enforce science “Orthodoxy”.

Reply to  max hugoson
June 30, 2020 4:34 am

Would this “rapid review” process have picked up the Nature paper which was based on a fraudulent data base of medical histories which was rushed into print and was the basis of WHO global medical advice before it was hastily RETRACTED a week later?

What is needed in more thorough and critical review, not fast track “peer reveiw”.

“There is an urgent need to validate–or debunk–the rapidly growing volume of COVID-19-related manuscripts on preprint servers,” explains Bertozzi.

Debunking is one of my trigger words for spotting non-scientific, agenda driven positions.

An objective scientist would publish a paper with a contrary conclusion or in an extreme case a rebuttal to a previous work.

Debunking is the language of cock-sure internet ranters and activists.

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Greg
June 30, 2020 10:38 am

My fraud filter caught the “debunk” term, as well. Also, the idea of peer review as a “validation” of research, or (especially) as a means of determining its accuracy reflect a concept of the process as being like checking a student’s homework. Did the student “get the right answer?” That presupposes the existence of a “right” answer. “Right”, these days, typically means “Left.”

Reply to  Greg
June 30, 2020 4:41 pm

Well stated, Greg!

June 29, 2020 6:21 pm

The vast majority of published research findings are false. Speeding up the process does not improve things.

HD Hoese
Reply to  commieBob
June 29, 2020 7:30 pm

I know your point, but am going to disagree, there are a lot of unpublished marine science reports, some government, residing in libraries, not all available on the internet. There is often de facto peer review, sure sometimes by close colleagues. Unpublished theses and dissertations, the latter often written now for publication, receive, or should receive, serious peer review by faculty. There are still many estuarine areas that have had relatively little done outside of some contract research, some done by those with a good peer reviewed record. With the climate today, despite improved search capabilities with strains on libraries, some closed or reduced, lots of good information is in danger of being lost. Peer review is overrated as has been discussed here often.

If it is flawed it would help for it to be exposed. I know this guy, did my masters on the water body.
Ward, G. H., Jr. 2010. A time line of Cedar Bayou. Center Res. Water Resour. Univ. Tex. Interagency Contracts Study of Matagorda Bay. 1-66. Don’t know if its on line, some are, some aren’t, some disappear. I produced a few of such reports myself, lots of data, even some data get used and cited by the “real?” sources. Too many think everything worth knowing is on the internet and it is remarkable and expanding.

Reply to  HD Hoese
June 29, 2020 8:17 pm

Sadly, the Canadian government destroyed most of Canada’s libraries that were formerly located in its marine science stations. Lots of grey literature gone forever, because the powers-that-be in Ottawa arrogantly assumed that most of it had been digitized, and wanted to modernize Canada’s scientific information system, but a sizeable portion was not, as I learned from some scientists who took pains to investigate. These documents could have formed an important historic backbone for longitudinal studies of shifting environmental and biotic changes. Alas, the Vandals and Barbarians are in power – bureaucratically and otherwise – and attacking the world’s scientific legacy from within the government. And yes, this information was based on rigorous investigations and subject to an internal peer review – very little of it had any political dimension.

Reply to  commieBob
June 29, 2020 9:36 pm

The statement that peer review can vet research for accuracy is misinformation, except in the sense that quality can be judged and perhaps nonsensical and wildly fraudulent and fantastic claims are brought to light.

June 29, 2020 6:21 pm

> Traditional peer review can take four or more weeks to complete…

Tell that to climate researchers with non-conforming results.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Rob_Dawg
June 29, 2020 7:10 pm

Those are quicker. Rubber stamp reject.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
June 29, 2020 10:25 pm

Not necessarily. Sometimes people get strung along for years, with not quite enough discouragement to make them realize that they are being jacked around. It happened to a guy I know who was revealing the glaring flaws in a paper by one of the “leading lights” in the field.

Gary Pearse
June 29, 2020 6:27 pm

Is this a good thing? Alarmateers already get their papers out in a few days. One on HCQ that isn’t negative will just get rejected quicker.

June 29, 2020 6:59 pm

I don’t know how this is possible. An easy review takes three full days. Easy is when the data is well organised, there are a reasonable number of citations and any statistical analyses are straightforward. With dog’s breakfast data, 200 citations and Torquemada torturing the data, it can take considerably longer. I think short review times are already a large part why we have a reproducibility crisis. Many researchers don’t take reviewing seriously and the busier the reviewer, the shorter the review time. Rapid reviews are not thorough reviews. Rapid Reviews is going to need paid professional reviewers among other innovations if this is going to work.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  BCBill
June 29, 2020 7:08 pm

“Rapid Reviews is going to need paid professional reviewers among other innovations if this is going to work.”

Professional unbiased reviewers. Not sure such a thing is possible.

Jeff Alberts
June 29, 2020 7:06 pm

“Using artificial intelligence tools”

Really? The software will make reasoned decisions? Or just follow its programming?

The Expulsive
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
June 30, 2020 5:19 am

Do they mean machine learning tools? AI is just another one of those buzz-words used to impress and bamboozle (part of the 3 Bs), like “cloud”, marketing jargon for the easily impressed. And these tools are, once again, only as good as the underlying algorithm, the data fed into them, and the (sometimes) intended result programed into them. Those of us in IT have seen when these go seriously wrong and start mimicking the ideas (and sometimes prejudices) of the programmers.

Nothing to worry about…move along…the program has spoken…no you can’t look at the code, it is proprietary.

June 29, 2020 7:19 pm

Unlike others here, I think this will be quite useful. We’ll know which papers are junk science much more quickly – just look for the stamp of approval from this bunch. If it is there, you can just assume that the paper is either thrown together just to get the politically correct approval – or, alternatively, is a complete fraud.

Reply to  Writing Observer
June 29, 2020 10:20 pm

100% cynical view.
100% Justified.

We would like to at least extend the benefit of the doubt, and give them a fair chance. But we have seen all the politics and big money come into play with the HCQ/Remdesivir debacle. If there is even a whiff of unjustified support for any political position, in the types and kinds of papers they publish, in my mind they will be roadkill.

The corruption of Climate Science is a case study, and a useful model going forward. Remember, George Orwell’s “1984 ” was changed from a warning into a handbook.

June 29, 2020 11:25 pm

“Using artificial intelligence tools”

Such as keywords data mining … as in the pseudo-scientific meta-analysis done by an infamous assistant ?

I bet the result will be that 97% of the rapid reviewed and published papers claim what politicians, institutions and their donors want the populace to believe.

Harry Davidson
June 30, 2020 4:08 am

How does this make sense? The reviewer is supposed to check the arguments, check that it all hangs togther, think about it. It is that process that protects against rubbish being published. I recognize that Climate Journals use a different test, “Do I agree with the conclusions”, but they are hardly a model to be followed.

Patrick B
June 30, 2020 6:42 am

As someone exposed to the review system, timing of reviews is a problem and some reviewers have to be hounded to respond. But the much bigger problem is the quality of the reviews. If someone wanted to actually improve the review system they would work on quality before working on time for review. The quality, to use clear scientific terms, sucks. The reviewers have to have more skin in the game – either in the form of payment or in the form of career impact, because it’s clear, inside the system, that pride in their own work does not work for a huge number of reviewers. They are not embarrassed to turn in reviews that don’t show any real thought or effort. Fix the quality of the reviews and you have accomplished something. Rushing out poor reviews accomplishes nothing.

William Astley
June 30, 2020 10:26 am

In reply to:

max hugoson’s comment:
Not that impressed. A method to enforce science “Orthodoxy”.

I agree….. Another medical journal is not the answer. We ‘know’ what the cure is for Covid.

The medical research game is rigged. Those ‘playing’ and funding the game are not trying to solve our health care problems.

We cannot seem to ‘find’ the most important possible breakthrough in medical ‘science’.

We are almost all deficient in a substance which our body produces, that changes our cells at a microbiological level.

This special chemical, that is a proto hormone, literally adds new functionality to our cells, to fight viruses, prevent cancers, increase our metabolism, (people lose 20 to 40 lbs), cure depression, prevent autoimmune diseases, prevent multiple sclerosis, and so on.

In the Engineering world, problems are solved. Airplanes do not fall from the sky due to defects and poor maintenance. Bridges and building are safe. Engineers find and solve problems. If a plane fails from the sky, those involved are fired or go to jail, if there were engineering mistakes.

That is not true in Medical research.

We do not need any more double ‘blind’ studies to cure covid or to cure most common cancers.

Think of the absurdity of a double blind study, when it is known that correcting the deficiency of this substance that the body makes, has been shown to reduce breast cancer deaths by more than 80%, reduces the incidences of type 2 diabetes by more than 50%, in addition to reducing the death rate from covid by 19 times.

We have the answer, in peer reviewed studies. The problem is the answer will reduce our total health care costs by more 70%, in addition to ‘curing’ covid.

It is a fact that 82% of the US African American population, 69% of the US Hispanic population, and 42% of the US general population are Vitamin D deficient.

Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults.

And it is a fact that 19 times more people, in the US, are dying from covid, because they are ‘Vitamin’ D deficient.

Vitamin D deficient people, regardless of sex or age, have a 19 times less chance of dying from covid, that Vitamin D normal people.

Vitamin D insufficient have a 12 times less chance of dying from covid, than Vitamin normal people.

Coronavirus: Black African deaths three times higher than white Britons – study

82% of the US black population, 69% of the US Hispanic, and 42% of the US general population is Vitamin D deficient.

Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults.

4000 UI/day of Vitamin D supplements is required to raise the serum 25(OH)D of the entire population above 30 ng/ml.

Reply to  William Astley
June 30, 2020 11:00 am

If you wish to dig deeper into the science behind Vit D and sunshine, UCSD TV has a couple of symposia on the web from about 5 years ago. It is fascinating, and the kinetics of the different forms are important.

William Astley
Reply to  Fran
June 30, 2020 2:15 pm

Thank Fran. I have had a look at those video.

This is a video of the lead Vitamin D researcher, Bruce Hollis, presenting the prostate cancer results. 4000 UI/day is require to get in the range of Vitamin D normal.

Those taking Vitamin D supplements of 4000 UI/day had shrinking prostate tumors and it was found that Vitamin D had stimulated a gene that produces a substance that stops inflammation.

It is a no brainer for every man to take 4000 UI/day based only on the prostate cancer results.

This is a link to the Science Daily discussion of Vitamin D finding and the paper that notes there is a 80% reduction in the incidence of breast cancer when the Vitamin D deficiency is corrected along with supplement calcium.

It was found that it is dangerous to take supplement calcium without first correcting the Vitamin D deficiency. Odd that the general population was not warned at the time that was found out.

Results of a Prostate Cancer/Vitamin D Trial: Effectiveness Safety Recommendations

Bruce H Hollis

This is a link to a US women’s movement that found out Vitamin D deficiency is directly connected with most of the common cancer and no one was funding research, Vitamin D research.

The US women group raised the money in the community. Using fund raised money and they then built their own research center and funded Vitamin D research.

This is a chart they produced which shows some of the ‘diseases’ which are caused by Vitamin D deficiency.

This is a link to breast cancer study.

The proportion with breast cancer was 78% lower for >60 ng/ml vs <20 ng/ml (P = 0.02). Third, multivariate Cox regression revealed that women with 25(OH)D concentrations 60 ng/ml had an 80% lower risk of breast cancer than women with concentrations <20 ng/ml (HR = 0.20, P = 0.03), adjusting for age, BMI, smoking status, calcium supplement intake, and study of origin.

Finally: Missing link between vitamin D, prostate cancer

A new study offers compelling evidence that inflammation may be the link between vitamin D and prostate cancer. Specifically, the study shows that the gene GDF-15, known to be upregulated by vitamin D, is notably absent in samples of human prostate cancer driven by inflammation.

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