The preLights community build a new website for landmark coronavirus preprints

3 April 2020

Over the course of three months, more than a thousand coronavirus preprints have been posted. A group of preLighters has now created the website to feature landmark studies and place them on a timeline of the pandemic.

In the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with currently over one million confirmed cases worldwide and 50,000 deaths, scientists are working around the clock to understand the virus, model the spread of the disease, and develop therapies and vaccines. To allow researchers to rapidly build on findings from other groups and thereby accelerate progress, immediate sharing of research has become absolutely critical. Preprints enable just that and, gratifyingly, the past months have witnessed a boom of preprints on COVID-19 disease and the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that causes it.

In January, as the first big studies were posted on bioRxiv about the genomic analysis of the virus and identification of its receptor, a group of preLighters started a list of coronavirus-related preprints, including short summaries about the works. However, with hundreds of preprints posted each week, a comprehensive list quickly became increasingly difficult to maintain. bioRxiv together with medRxiv later created a collection of all COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 preprints on their platforms, which currently contains over 1,100 preprints. But navigating this rapidly growing literature still remains a challenge.

Now in a renewed effort, a group of preLighters created the website, where landmark preprints in COVID-19 research are highlighted and, together with major events of the ongoing pandemic, are positioned on a timeline. The carefully selected preprints include short digests, refer to expert discussions (e.g. on Twitter), and the website also links to key COVID-19 resources.

A snapshot of the timeline from the website.


Controversial preprints that are widely debated undoubtedly shape research as well, might influence policies, and in the worst cases cause harm. Therefore, the team felt it is important to give them a place on the timeline, but clearly mark them with a unique colour and include links to pages where they have been debunked.

Moving forward, the featured preprints on the site will link to reviews from organisations such as the Immunology Institute at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, or crowdsourced reviews from Outbreak Science PREreview.

The preLighters hope that this website will prove useful for different audiences including scientists who want to find important primary research on COVID-19, or journalists who are in search of resources for their stories. Finally, as advocates for preprints and open science, the preLighters hope that once we are over this pandemic and life gets back to normal, we can look back (also with the help of this website) at the enormous role preprints have played in progressing our knowledge of the virus and disease, and convince most scientists that preprinting their work should become the norm.