Fast-track Guidance

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most research focused on the virus was fast-tracked but often in a fragmented manner. In particular, research ethics committees struggled with requests to fast-track pandemic research because of increased workloads, new remote workflows, uncertainty regarding the risks and benefits of COVID-19 research, a lack of resources and training, and study and review duplication. At the same time, editors and publishers were inundated with research paper submissions, which tripled for some journals. Again, fast-tracking measures were attempted in the face of major difficulties, e.g. a lack of reviewers, especially for medical journals, and publishing staff who were themselves affected by the pandemic.  

To be ready for the next crisis requires investment in system resilience now.

After consultation with relevant stakeholders and research conducted in eight languages, PREPARED can now offer two types of guidance to improve system resilience.

“Guidance for fair and fast desk assessment of submitted manuscripts during times of crisis” is addressed to editors and publishers. It covers the process for identification of manuscripts that meet the threshold criteria for peer review and the criteria against which the submission can be assessed.  
“Recommendations for expediting ethics review during times of crisis” presents seven major challenges research ethics committees experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic and provides recommendations for effective fast-tracking of study protocols as well as a good practice example for each challenge.

Whilst the guidance was developed for crisis situations, it is also likely to be helpful during routine work of editors, publishers and research ethics committees.