Go back

Medical journal fast-tracks free publication of Covid-19 research

Rapid review ‘risks errors, but being too slow with information sharing is a bigger risk’

Australia’s leading peer-reviewed medical journal has launched a rapid online publication process for Covid-19 research papers and is providing free public access to these studies.

The Medical Journal of Australia has introduced the changes so that “the newest data and viewpoints are released as soon as possible”.

Nicholas Talley, the journal’s editor-in-chief, said the MJA had “stepped up to do its part in the crisis” by developing an ultra-rapid review of papers submitted to the journal.

The preprint papers are published on the MJA website in a section called Online First.

“Our medical and structural editors are working from home and the MJA will continue to publish as usual in these extraordinary times,” Talley said in an online editorial.

“The new rapid publication model risks errors but being too slow with information sharing is a much bigger risk. We will work to refine the preprints prior to publishing online early, and in print, and correct and update along the way.”

Australia’s medical profession cannot adopt a “business as usual” approach to the pandemic and must increase the number of intensive care beds in hospitals, ventilator capacity and access to personal protective equipment, he said.

“Those who will face the Covid-19 front line and manage the sickest patients will need our greatest support, every single one of them. We will need to ensure we don’t waste current stocks of PPE and more is obtained—a clear government priority we must support by cancelling routine surgery and procedures.”

Talley also called for “a countrywide plan” to guide deployment of medical teams and training for health staff.

“Training of all staff needs to ramp up and this must be more than simple videos online,” he said.

“We need a clear plan if PPE runs low or out. And we need clear triage rules for who is ventilated or not if beds run short; health professional leaders and the community together must discuss the complex issues, and guidance needs to be finalised as soon as possible.”

Talley warned that post-traumatic stress disorder would be a serious risk for medical staff dealing with the pandemic, and that mental health support must be available.

“We will also require our health system leadership to understand at a time like this, the structure in every hospital should be a military-like command-and-control one, led by senior frontline clinicians and health professionals with a designated clinician leader. Bureaucrats must step to the sidelines,” he said.