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Berkeley Public Health’s Stefano Bertozzi is editor-in-chief of new peer-reviewed COVID-19 journal

Stefano M. Bertozzi, UC Berkeley School of Public Health Dean Emeritus and professor of Health Policy and Management, has just been named editor-in-chief of a new peer-reviewed journal focused on COVID-19 research published by MIT Press.

The new journal, Rapid Reviews: COVID-19 (RR:C19), is 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 Bertozzi, 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.”

“Science demands collaboration, and RR:C19 is a terrific example of how our academic research communities are greater than the sum of its parts,” says Hildy Fong Baker, executive director of the UC Berkeley Center for Global Public Health. “We have recruited over 125 students and colleagues [at UC Berkeley] to support RR:C19 from many angles. We are engaging students from nearly every school/college on the UCB campus in the initial (‘pre’ peer review) evaluations of preprints.”

“We have PhD students, med students, and postdocs building AI tools and providing leadership to track trending and critical COVID-19 research. Student assistant editors support business operations from the editorial office. We are able to tap into a very capable and powerful source of student energy to help advance transparent and valid COVID-19 science—there is a lot of enthusiasm for this new open source publishing model,” Baker says.

“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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