Rapid publishing in the era of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19)

Nicholas J Talley
Med J Aust 2020; 212 (11): 535-536. || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50625
Published online: 1 June 2020

In reply: Lee and Lin raise an important point about the need for caution in interpreting rapidly published articles in the era of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19). At the Medical Journal of Australia, we are acutely aware of the need to balance rapid dissemination of key data with the need to maintain our usual high standards of quality and accuracy. We have taken the view that in these unprecedented times, rapid sharing of information is critical, but we recognise the risk of errors this infers. In response, we have implemented a preprint and rapid review process for selected manuscripts of an urgent nature (Box). In order to minimise the risk of errors, all manuscripts are carefully reviewed by myself, our team of experienced and medically qualified editors and, where appropriate, our consultant biostatistician, before being selected for preprint in the MJA. Only where the editorial team have a high level of confidence in the validity and importance of the article will it be selected for rapid preprint publication. Before full acceptance of the manuscript to be published online and in print and, in selected cases, before we accept an article for preprint, we organise a rapid double blind peer review followed by revision in line with our usual stringent processes. In these circumstances, we endeavour to have this process completed within 7 days of preprint publication so that any errors can be quickly identified and corrected. We are very grateful to our reviewers who have been very generous in their assistance with this new process. One final check in our process on full publication is review and editing by our experienced scientific and structural editors, who meticulously check all articles for consistency, accuracy and referencing, while finessing them for readability and clarity of presentation — their expertise is invaluable in ensuring published manuscripts are presented accurately and in the best possible light. We acknowledge that contradiction and error may be inevitable during this rapidly evolving situation but would like to assure our readers that at the MJA, when errors occur, they will be rectified in a timely manner and with full transparency. While we are living in a world of rapid change, our commitment to providing Australian health and medical researchers, clinicians and policy makers with the world‐leading general medical journal they deserve stands strong.

Box – MJA process for rapid publication of selected coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19)‐related manuscripts*

* Timing is indicative and may vary according to the complexity of the manuscript.

  • Nicholas J Talley

  • University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW

Competing interests:

Nicholas Talley is Editor‐in‐Chief of the Medical Journal of Australia. A complete list of disclosures is available at​al/staff/​editor-chief-profe​ssor-nick-talley.


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