The wonderful new trend of ‘peer review’ threads on Twitter

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Twitter screenshotI’ve used Twitter since 2008, but never has it been more vital to my work and news diet than throughout 2020, and continuing into this year. The discussions by physicians, infectious disease experts and epidemiologists about SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 and the pandemic, in general, has been invaluable for a journalist covering these topics. It’s hard to pick one favorite thing about the evolution of Twitter discourse since the pandemic has begun, but definitely high on the list is the trend of peer review threads on the site.

Peer review is the process by which journal papers are reviewed for quality, clarity, usefulness and robustness by other researchers in the field before publication. Preprints are papers that have not yet gone through peer review. But anyone who covers medical research knows that simply having been peer-reviewed is no guarantee that a paper really is high-quality or deserved to be published. (Spend some time at Retraction Watch for all the evidence you need.)

Enter Twitter peer review: An individual scientist can take a paper and deconstruct the data, the limitations, the strengths, the findings and the conclusions, often (albeit not always) in lay terms. I’ve found these peer review threads invaluable in helping me make sense of the daily tsunami of research each day about the pandemic, COVID-19 and the coronavirus itself.

Self-described “Health Nerd” Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz is one of the most prolific Twitter peer reviewers and, I’ll admit, my favorite. That’s in part because I followed the Australian epidemiologist for years before the pandemic, and he’s often helped me in my work. See below just a smattering of his peer review threads:

Meyerowitz-Katz did not invent the peer review thread (I have no idea who did), and he’s certainly not the only one who does it. See below for another sampling of this trend. If you want to know who to follow to see these peer reviews in real-time, the folks below are a good start:

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