Research papers on COVID-19 are published in an unprecedented rate, but sometimes need to be retracted due to issues with the data quality.
Openly available data (researched and published by Airfinity) show that as of June 2020, 23,000 papers on COVID-19 have been published, of which 18,300 were printed by academic journals and 4,700 were on preprint servers that post papers online without peer review. Under normal conditions, the time between a paper being submitted and its publication is three to four months. However, the publication speed of several COVID-19 research papers was approximately two to three weeks.
According to Airfinity, more observational studies have been published on COVID-19 than studies on randomised clinical trials for other diseases. A spokesperson for the Retraction Watch database mentions that COVID-19 has exposed vulnerabilities in the publishing system. The rush on publishing can have an impact on the standard of research.
An issue is the peer review process, in which journals send out papers before publication to scientists in the same field. Scientists are asked to assess the quality of the research, spot errors and suggest improvements of the research done by their peers. The increased number of peer review requests means a high workload. As a result, the quality of open research data can potentially suffer from a lack of time and a high workload during the pandemic.