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Europe PMC: unlocking the potential of COVID-19 preprints

Open science platform Europe PMC to host and share full-text COVID-19 preprints from a range of preprint servers

Europe PMC logo with red viral particles floating around it. Credit: Spencer Phillips/EMBL, iStock
Credit: Spencer Phillips/EMBL, iStock

COVID-19 research papers and preprints are currently published across many repositories, in formats that make large-scale analyses difficult. To help researchers search and access preprints more effectively, Europe PMC, the literature archive of EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), has begun indexing full-text COVID-19 preprints along with the associated data. The project contributes to a global shift to more open science and aims to accelerate research to fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The pandemic goes on, research needs to follow

COVID-19 has made its way to each and every corner of the world. Although some countries are beginning to bring the pandemic under control, the virus is still circulating. The need to develop better treatments or a vaccine remains extremely urgent.

The pandemic is marking 2020 as a tipping point in the history of science in many ways. It has highlighted the need for rapid research and effective communication of results to healthcare professionals and governments. Scientists and publishers have sped up their work to an unprecedented rate, removing many barriers to open science. One way researchers can share their findings quickly is through preprints, research articles that are not yet published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. However, preprints are often scattered across several repositories as PDF documents, which makes the work of text miners complicated.

“Scientific publishing can’t go back to how it used to operate before the pandemic. There needs to be a shift towards more use of preprints and more transparent peer review processes,” says Jo McEntyre, Associate Director of EMBL-EBI and Head of Literature Services. “Indexing full text preprints from multiple preprint servers, making them findable from a single search, and presenting them in a standard way for reading and text mining, is a significant step towards discoverability and reuse of preprints.”

Europe PMC: the first repository to gather full-text COVID-19 preprints

In the coming weeks and months, Europe PMC will collect full-text COVID-19 preprints and contact authors to make these available for others to search, read, and reuse. Preprints will be indexed in a standard XML format, along with the associated data. This project, supported by the Wellcome Trust in partnership with the UK Medical Research Council and the Swiss National Science Foundation, adds to the global effort to change the future of publishing and healthcare practices.

“This exciting initiative will create a reading experience that is not only more seamless, but also potentially richer,” says Jessica Polka, Executive Director of ASAPbio, a non-profit organisation promoting transparency and innovation in life science communication. “Openly licensed documents can be text mined and enhanced with SciLite annotations, adding context for readers. The inclusion of the full text of COVID-19 preprints in Europe PMC is an important step in the integration of preprints into the scholarly communications infrastructure.”

Source articles

Blog post in Europe PMC

Tags: COVID-19, EuropePMC, McEntyre, open science, preprints

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