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‘Living reviews’ launched by Cardiff and Oxford in wake of COVID-19 research

18 December 2020

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In a combined effort to help COVID-19 researchers, Cardiff University and the University of Oxford have launched a series of “living reviews”.

The reviews are available in the new open access journal of the Oxford University Press (OUP), Oxford Open Immunology.

They will summarise literature around one topic and are a response to the speed and volume of COVID-19 immunology research published during the pandemic.

Professor Awen Gallimore, from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine and joint lead for the Oxford-Cardiff COVID-19 Literature Consortium, said: “Because new information emerges day by day when you publish something on Monday by the following Friday it may already be out of date.

“Our living reviews enable as-you-go updates and should represent a useful step towards supporting scientists to address the big and trending research questions.”

The journal publishes peer-reviewed scientific articles, and the annotation enables rapid communication of updated information - but the version of record does not change so provides a history of the scientific developments.

Dr Ewoud Compeer, co-lead from the University of Oxford, said: “The field of COVID-19 immunology was seeing new developments and new hypotheses appearing at an extreme pace online in the form of pre-prints.

“This speed of publishing made literature reviews outdated even before a journal published them. Our ‘living reviews’ will stay “live” for a designated period, being updated as change happens.”

The COVID-19 Literature Initiative began with a team of around 100 post-doctoral researchers, DPhil students, and faculty members from the Medical Sciences Division at the University of Oxford reading, reviewing and summarising the latest COVID-19 research from all round the world in order to support frontline researchers.

At Cardiff, the School of Medicine-wide Journal Club, also comprising PhD students, post-docs and early career researchers had started a similar initiative. Oxford and Cardiff joined forces to pool expertise around a wider range of disciplines and ensure those on the frontline were up to date with the latest developments in the field.

The living reviews add to a growing body of material from the Oxford-Cardiff COVID-19 Literature Consortium that is available through their website, and popular science blog, and could become a new benchmark for reviewing research in the future.

“We are pleased to be able to support the research community with this new series of living reviews from the Oxford-Cardiff COVID-19 Literature Consortium. We’re excited to be able to offer this new open annotation functionality to our authors in Oxford Open Immunology and hope that this innovative new format will generate a useful and up-to-date resource for readers,” said Rhiannon Meaden, senior publisher at OUP.

Luke Davies, from Cardiff University, one of the authors of the first published review, said: “The reviews were like a paint-by-numbers, we knew there were bits missing and new colours were coming in week by week, but it would be years before we got the whole picture.

“A live review allows us to carefully add to the picture over time, while still delivering an up-to-date snapshot of the field that can aid ongoing research.”

The first living reviews to be published are Viral entry, sensing and evasion and Dysregulated inflammation drives immunopathology.

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