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Opinion | How to Disseminate Science Quickly

What more could be done? In a November article for The Scientist, Dr. Mullins proposes that preprints “have a limited shelf life with a link that expires within 12 months” so that bad research doesn’t linger. If it’s good work, it should have found a publisher by then, he argues. Every page should have a digital watermark identifying it as not peer-reviewed, he says. And preprints should be digitally linked to the peer-reviewed articles they become to “motivate authors to complete the peer-review process,” he writes.

Open-access journals are another solution to the speed versus quality challenge. In contrast to preprints, they are peer-reviewed. However, some are unreliable, Dr. Mullins warns: Low-quality journals have sprung up to collect payments from researchers who are desperate to get published. He said he needs a spam filter to stave off pitches from open-access journal publishers inviting him to pay to get his articles in.

I’m intrigued by new business models pioneered by the likes of F1000, Research Square and Qeios, which tweak the preprint publishing approach in various ways. On Qeios, which is based in London, researchers or their institutions don’t pay per article, but they do pay a monthly fee to post an unlimited number of articles. The articles go up right away, as on a preprint server such as medRxiv, but are later peer-reviewed, as in a journal.

Gabriele Marinello, the chief executive and co-founder of Qeios, dropped out of medical school in Italy in 2016, incorporated Qeios in 2017 and started it in 2019. Qeios is pronounced “chaos.” That sounds like an inauspicious name, but Marinello says it’s appropriate for something new because Chaos was the first of the Greek gods, at the beginning of the world.

Some of the corporate researchers have used Qeios as the final destination for their work, while university researchers have used it like a preprint service, with plans to get the work eventually published in a journal, Marinello says. To attract reviewers, which is a challenge for all outlets, Qeios is publishing their full reviews on the site, a form of recognition that’s lacking in conventional journals. The Qeios website cites work that it has published by researchers from the California Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Harvard, Stanford and University College London.

In an email, Marinello wrote this about Qeios: “Though not perfect, it’s more transparent, inclusive, and you tend to spot and mark more research as good or bad, reducing the amount that is currently missed by journals’ scrutiny and, importantly, the immense frustration that hurried rejections create for countless great scientists.”

West says that researchers who have truly excellent work might skip a platform such as Qeios and take it straight to a major journal to avoid having to deal with random potshots from readers. Getting into a journal that has high impact, measured by citations of its articles, can determine whether a scholar gets tenure.

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