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Feature Christmas 2020: M*A*S*H

Shepherding preprints through a pandemic

BMJ 2020; 371 doi: (Published 15 December 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4703

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  1. Theodora Bloom, executive editor
  1. The BMJ
  1. tbloom{at}

The medRxiv clinical preprint server launched in 2019 and has had to adapt at pace this year, as preprints have been adopted widely during the pandemic, says Theodora Bloom

People tend to have opinions on preprints and whether they help or hinder progress in research. I’m an unabashed preprint advocate. Of course, some preprints are more important and interesting than others, and some prove to be plain wrong, just like journal articles. And I declare an interest: last year BMJ joined forces with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Yale University to launch a preprint server for clinical medicine, medRxiv (pronounced “med-archive”),1 to enable quicker exchange of research ideas.2 In its first six months medRxiv handled a few hundred articles. In 2020 so far it has posted 12 000, mostly on one topic: coronavirus.3

Before the launch we decided what types of papers to post, how to screen them quickly while limiting risk to patients and populations, and what requirements to place on authors.4 The pandemic changed none of these criteria, but they were all tested repeatedly through discussion channels and video meetings—and our concerns and processes have evolved with each phase of the pandemic.

For example, medRxiv aims to post only research articles (including systematic reviews) and …

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