Preprint Club reviews promising papers
Preprint servers are a mixed bag of important research papers and articles of more dubious quality. The Preprint Club sifts out the nuggets that are worthy of our attention – and has now been joined by scientists from Karolinska Institutet.
Many researchers upload scientific articles onto preprint servers before they have been peer-reviewed and published in a journal. While this is a faster way for scientists to spread their research, it can be difficult for readers to know which papers are well-composed and relevant.
Because of this, a group of young researchers from Karolinska Institutet, Mount Sinai in New York and Oxford University have got together to start the Preprint Club.
“The Preprint Club operates roughly like a normal journal club, where researchers gather to critically discuss scientific papers, only we focus on preprint articles,” says postdoc researcher Laura Palma Medina, one of the Preprint Club’s two coordinators at Karolinska Institutet.
Formed during the pandemic
The club was the initiative of Mount Sinai and Oxford University, where two separate preprint clubs were formed early during the pandemic by young researchers wanting to help evaluate the huge volume of articles on SARS-CoV-2. They then merged, and were joined in November 2021 by colleagues from Karolinska Institutet.
“The focus has shifted from only being about COVID-19 to immunology more generally,” says Laura Palma Medina.
The Preprint Club meets digitally once a week to discuss selected papers and evaluate them after certain criteria (see factbox).
“We focus on papers that we deem to be of value and that interest us,” she continues. “Any that are obviously flawed or incomplete we don’t bother with.”
A summary is then published alongside the reviewed article, serving as feedback to the authors and guidance for the readers. Each month, two of the papers are also selected for presentation in the journal Nature Reviews Immunology, in which a column is reserved for the Preprint Club.
Benefits collaboration and Open Science
The collaboration of the three universities is a way of broadening competence within the club and mitigating the risk of group-think.
“We believe that our different backgrounds make it more likely that different perspectives will be brought to the table,” says Nicolas Ruffin, the other coordinator at Karolinska Institutet.
At Karolinska Institutet, the Preprint Club also advocates collaboration. As researchers, Nicolas Ruffin is tied to the Department of Clinical Neuroscience in Solna and Laura Palma Medina is at the Department of Medicine in Huddinge.
“Laura and I had never met before the Preprint Club, and we bring together researchers who would otherwise not have been in contact with each other from both campuses and from different institutions and disciplines,” he says.
Two dozen or so researchers at Karolinska Institutet have joined the club so far – and more are welcome. On a personal level, the club provides valuable training in reviewing papers and is a great way to keep updated on the latest research, he explains.
Involvement also benefits the Open Science movement, which seeks to make more research more transparent.
“Scientific papers are often reviewed behind closed doors,” says Laura Palma Medina. “But science is heading towards a more open climate, one in which many younger researchers feel more at home. We want an open discussion, not to argue with each other but to enrich each other.”
Factbox: What does the Preprint Club do?
- The Preprint Club meets digitally every Monday to discuss two preprint papers selected by its members.
- The papers are assessed along three criteria: novelty, thoroughness and significance.
- One club member writes a short text summarising the paper’s strengths and weaknesses.
- At the end of every month, the two most promising papers are presented in Nature Reviews Immunology.