The pandemic has caused scientists to work faster. That should be welcomed
疫情促使科学家们加快了步伐。这是可喜的变化

【双语】高速科研 High-speed science-书迷号 shumihao.com

​ IT IS A testament to the machinery of science that so much has been learned about covid-19 so rapidly. Since January the number of publications has been doubling every 14 days, reaching 1,363 in the past week alone. They have covered everything from the genetics of the virus that causes the disease to computer models of its spread and the scope for vaccines and treatments.
人们这么快就对新冠肺炎有了这么多了解,这证明了科学机制的力量。自1月以来,论文发表数量每14天就翻一番,仅在过去一周就新增1363篇。它们涵盖新冠病毒的遗传信息、病毒传播方式的计算机模型、找到疫苗和疗法的机会等方方面面。

What explains the speed? Much as in other areas of life, covid-19 has burnt away encrusted traditions. Scientific journals have done their best to assess and publish research in days rather than their customary months or years. But a bigger factor behind the breakneck pace of publication is the willingness of biomedical scientists to bypass journals altogether and share their work quickly in the form of preprints—research manuscripts that are posted freely online and which have not been peer-reviewed.
为什么会有这样的速度?和生活中其他领域发生的变化差不多,新冠肺炎打碎了顽固的传统。科学期刊竭尽所能,在几天、十几天里就评估完并发表研究成果,而不是通常的几个月甚至几年。但是,如此飞快的发表速度背后还有一个更大的因素,就是生物医学家愿意完全绕过期刊,以预印本的形式快速分享自己的成果,也就是在线上公开发布未经同行评议的论文初稿。

Preprints are not a new idea. They have been an important method of communication in physical sciences and mathematics for decades. Biologists and medical scientists, however, have long resisted them. Unlike number theory or astrophysics, biologists have argued, their findings often directly affect individuals and companies. Incomplete or unchecked studies could do them harm.
预印本并不是什么新点子。几十年来,它们一直是物理学和数学领域内重要的传播方式。但生物学家和医学家长期以来对此都很抗拒。生物学家指出,与数论或天体物理学不同,自己的发现往往会直接影响个人和企业,不完整或未经查核的研究可能会对其造成危害。

Arguments against preprints sound reasonable. Unless you are an expert in the field, it is hard to know whether a preprinted study is any good. Without peer-review before posting, the risk of shoddy science may well rise. The research contained in freely available preprints could be misinterpreted or abused by those hunting for scientific cover for their actions.
反对预印本的论点听起来合情合理。除非你是这些领域的专家,否则很难知道一份预印本研究是否有用。如果在发表前不经同行评议,劣质的科研成果很可能会增加。那些想为自己的行动找件科学外衣披一披的人可能会曲解或滥用公开可见的预印本中的内容。

The evidence, however, suggests such worries are overdone. A recent study found that an impressive 67% of the preprints posted on the bioRxiv server before 2017 were eventually picked up and published in scientific journals. A separate study showed that the difference in scientific value, as measured by other researchers, between a preprint and the final version of the same study in a journal was, on average, less than 5%.
然而证据表明这样的担忧过虑了。最近的一项研究发现,在2017年之前发布在bioRxiv服务器上的预印本有多达67%最终被采用并发表在科学期刊上。另一项研究表明,同一项研究的预印本和在期刊上发表的最终版本的科学价值(由其他研究人员评价衡量)平均相差不到5%。

Preprints do not avoid peer-review; it just happens after publication (informally and often in public) instead of beforehand (organised by editors and mostly in secret). Manuscripts attract the scrutiny of independent experts, who relish tearing apart bad work. Dissent is easily visible next to the original preprint or just a link away. Authors can update their manuscripts as comments come in or even withdraw them if they conclude they have big flaws. With traditional scientific journals retractions can take months or years, if they happen at all.
预印本并不回避同行评议,只不过这一步是在发表之后(非正式且经常是公开地)进行,而不是在发表之前(由编辑组织,通常非公开)。稿件会吸引到独立专家们的注意,他们乐于“拆穿”糟糕的研究。不同意见很容易看到:就列在原稿旁边,或者点一下链接即可。收到评论后,作者可以更新文章;如果总结认为原稿有重大缺陷,甚至可以撤回。在传统科学期刊上,即便真能撤稿,可能也需要几个月甚至几年的时间。

In the long run, exposing the messy, argumentative guts of the scientific process could bolster public trust in science itself. Researchers do not follow a straight road to the truth. Rather, they meander, disagree and fumble towards an understanding of the world. In this way all findings are provisional, standing only until later work modifies or overturns them.
从长远来看,让科研中混乱、充满辩论的内在过程暴露出来,或许能增加公众对科学本身的信任。研究人员并不是一路直达真理,而是历经迂回曲折、争论和摸索才愈趋了解世界。从这个角度来说,所有的发现都是暂时成立,总会有后来的研究去修改或推翻它们。

Preprints are not perfect. As they grow more common, there may be unpleasant side-effects. If the recent history of other social media is a guide, some people will find ways to game preprint servers and spread disinformation through them. Hosts and users of preprints should prepare for that. To get the most out of them, non-expert users need to step up their scepticism. Policy or journalism based on their contents should identify the source and its limitations.
预印本并不完美。随着它们变得越来越普遍,令人不快的副作用可能随之而来。如果其他社交媒体近年的历史可以作为参考,一些人会想办法操纵预印本服务器,通过它们传播虚假信息。发布预印本的平台和阅读预印本的用户对此应有准备。为了最大程度地利用好它们,非专业用户需要提高警惕。根据预印本的内容制定政策或发布新闻时,应当确认其来源及局限性。

As the deluge of work on covid-19 has shown, fast, free-flowing scientific information is vital for progress. The virus has changed the way scientists do their work and talk to each other, we hope for good.■
正如有关新冠肺炎的研究“洪流”所示,快速、自由流动的科学信息对进步至关重要。新冠病毒已经改变了科学家们工作和交流的方式——我们希望是永久性的。