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Reacting to the unprecedented urgency of COVID-19 research at Harvard: DASH's fast-tracking deposit program

In March 2020, OSC launched a program to facilitate the rapid release of Harvard's COVID-19 research

Published onOct 19, 2020
Reacting to the unprecedented urgency of COVID-19 research at Harvard: DASH's fast-tracking deposit program

Reacting to the unprecedented urgency of COVID-19 research at Harvard: DASH’s fast-tracking deposit program

“I can say that DASH is the simplest and most responsive server to work with and thus, in a time when preprints have unprecedented importance, a crucial means of communication. Harvard has stepped up to really speed and facilitate scientific communication in a critical time.” - Marc Lipsitch, Professor of Epidemiology, T.H. Chan School of Public Health

This past March, the Harvard Library Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) launched a program to facilitate the rapid release of Harvard’s COVID-19 research. Under this program, authors submit coronavirus-related papers to DASH, Harvard’s open-access institutional repository, where they are expedited, or “fast-tracked,” through the standard workflow. Now, seven months on, this program has successfully distributed a collection of vital research open-access to a global audience.

Making COVID-19 research quickly available via DASH during the pandemic serves two core goals of the Open Access movement: visibility and impact. By choosing to fast-track their COVID-19 research, Harvard authors quickly place life-saving research in the hands of all those who need it, regardless of resources, station, or location.

Eric Reinhard, a doctoral candidate in the Anthropology Department at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, fast-tracked COVID-19-related research and provided this feedback:

“Open access is key for the effective dissemination of research findings, particularly findings that bear directly on public policy and require mass awareness and political mobilization to have an effect. Specialized researchers often have access to libraries and journal subscriptions, but the general public does not, and for research that ought to bear on urgent policy matters, ensuring access for this demographic is very important.”

Fast-tracking COVID-19 was a simple program to implement, for both OSC staff and authors. Leveraging current DASH submission tools, authors deposit their work to DASH as they normally would. After deposit, authors contact OSC staff to request a fast-track. OSC then expedites the deposit and makes it public in DASH, typically within a few hours.

This rapid turnaround is especially beneficial for the distribution of COVID-19-related pre-prints. Yonatan Grad, the Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, emphasized the advantages of having an outlet at Harvard to disseminate work quickly:

“It’s been so valuable to be able to post pre-print manuscripts on DASH so quickly. With the incredibly fast pace of COVID-19 research, particularly in the spring and summer, it felt urgent to share results as soon as possible.”

Echoing Dr. Grad’s feedback, Sonny Patel, NIH Fogarty Global Health Scholar and Fellow at Harvard, told the OSC:

“DASH has been a quick and essential way to get papers out to the rest of the community, especially as some journals have slowed down their publishing cycle due to COVID-19…”

As of October, 2020, over 30 COVID-19-related works have been fast-tracked in DASH over the past seven months. These works have seen over 400,000 downloads from readers across the globe; DASH had more than one million downloads in the month of June 2020, the repository’s best download month ever, due in part to the COVID-19 fast-track program. Our first fast-tracked paper, by Dr. Marc Lipsitch, registered over 21,000 readers during its first four days on DASH.

Readers are responding in kind for this access, telling OSC:

“There is so much misinformation and ambiguity going on around COVID-19 which is very frustrating. Having open access to important information like this means the world to me because then I can make sense of the data for myself instead of just consuming someone else's version of the truth… I deeply appreciate the information made available and believe this is an essential resource for work and democracy.” (anonymous UX Design Strategist)

“I'm a graduate student at Towson University and I'm currently in a summer class for Health Systems Preparedness, which focuses on how health systems can be impacted by wide-spread disaster or disease, much like with COVID-19. Thanks to DASH, I was able to read this paper and apply it to my current learning!” (anonymous Graduate Student)

“I am looking for ways to help as a civilian with the Covid-19 efforts. Reading articles about human studies helps me better grasp what is happening.” (anonymous Reader)

The DASH COVID-19 fast-track program will continue until the pandemic passes. If you are a Harvard researcher engaged in pandemic or coronavirus work, directly or tangentially, we encourage you to submit your research to DASH for open-access distribution. If you are a student, scholar, or simply interested in the latest open-access research from Harvard on COVID-19, we invite you to explore DASH’s COVID-19 collection.

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