The COVID-19 crisis has underlined just how fast and open science publishing can be — when scientists want it that way. Researchers working on the pandemic are sharing preliminary results on preprint servers and institutional websites at unprecedented rates, embracing the kind of early, public sharing that physicists and mathematicians have practised for decades. Journals have whisked manuscripts through to formal publication in record time, aided by researchers who have rapidly peer-reviewed the studies. And dozens of publishers and journals, including Elsevier, Springer Nature and the New England Journal of Medicine, have made coronavirus research — new and old — free to read. They have pledged to continue doing so for the duration of the outbreak, and have encouraged or, in some instances, required researchers to post their manuscripts on preprint servers.
Some changes in publishing are probably here to stay. Scientific communities that embrace preprints tend never to look back, says John Inglis, co-founder of the medRxiv and bioRxiv preprint sites and the executive director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press near New York City. And May was the busiest-ever month for both sites, says Inglis. (The arXiv preprint server, which hosts physics and mathematics manuscripts, still receives more papers per week, however.)