The peer review process helps promote the publication of valid, balanced, and reproducible studies. Additionally, the process can improve the quality of a manuscript and even the study itself. However, the tension between the time it takes to leverage the rigor and credibility that comes from peer review and the need to disseminate findings that may impact public health is even more acute in a pandemic setting.
During the pandemic, some journals have slightly modified their publication procedures to share findings more quickly, but lags still exist in the process. Researchers have options for when they want journal credibility but need to share findings quickly, including:
- Consider the full spectrum of scientific journal articles for publication. Certain information may be more appropriate for a perspective, editorial, or research letter. Many traditional scientific journals offer narrative or commentary pieces that may be published faster than traditional research articles. These articles still provide credibility for the research and the authors but in less time than traditional research articles take. For example, an urgent call to address gaps in race data when describing COVID-19 vaccination rates may be appropriate for a journal perspective rather than original research. Such information is descriptive, but is critical for future inferences to be made. Case studies may also be a route for publishing research using RWD.
- Consider open access or open network journals. Many open access journals still adhere to a rigorous peer review process but commonly commit to faster publication than traditional print journals. Even well-established print journals are beginning to offer open access publication options. As with any journal submission, authors should be wary of “pay-to-publish” outlets and select an open access journal that is reputable and geared toward the target audience. Several open access journal directories and databases that publish journal performance metrics such as impact factor are available to help make this determination.
- Submit for publication as abstract or in proceedings. Some scientific meetings publish abstracts or proceedings documents, which, depending on timing of the conference, may be available more expeditiously.
Once published, dissemination efforts can further include:
- Issuing a press release.
- Sharing with colleagues and thought leaders via email blasts.
- Linking to the publication on social media (and even boosting posts for broader reach). If you leverage social media to disseminate findings or publications, be prepared to monitor and engage the space appropriately. Otherwise, the conversation may introduce inappropriate interpretation.
- Writing guest blog posts.
- Using the paper to spur discussion on podcasts, conferences, and other avenues to connect with interested stakeholders.