CHESTCOVID-19: Voices From the CommunityMedical Publishing in a COVID-19 World: How the Journal CHEST Adapted and Evolved

Medical Publishing in a COVID-19 World: How the Journal CHEST Adapted and Evolved

By: Peter J. Mazzone, MD, MPH, FCCP

COVID-19 has impacted us all in many ways. Research and the medical publishing field were certainly not immune to that impact. The CHEST® journal had to manage two issues related to COVID-19—an increase in the volume of submissions to our journal and a need to identify high-quality information and disseminate it in a timely manner.

Drastic Increase in Submissions

In 2020, CHEST received approximately twice as many total submissions (approximately 6,000) and twice as many original research manuscripts (approximately 4,000) than it had in 2019. The rate of submissions increased in quarter one, peaked in quarter two, and remained above the baseline through the rest of the year.

This growth was not accounted for by the volume of COVID-19-related submissions alone. Though the additional content was concentrated in our chest infections and critical care areas, each of our sub-specialty teams saw a substantial growth in submissions. During this time, our team members were also asked to do more in their clinical roles at their home institutions. Similarly, reviewers were overwhelmed with review requests, while having less time to volunteer for reviewer activities.

This experience was certainly not unique to CHEST. I was very proud of the way our team responded to this challenge. Despite the increase in volume, we were able to lower our time to first decision for our original research manuscripts in 2020.

Fast-Tracking Online Publication of Manuscripts

The second challenge had to do with the need to share high-quality information with our readers in a timely way. At the beginning of the pandemic, we met as an editorial board and decided that we would attempt to review our COVID-19 submissions quickly, but we would maintain the standards of our review process. We would only publish research that was deemed to be novel, with research questions that had a potential clinical impact and were answered through high-quality research designs. This decision led to a lower acceptance rate for our COVID-19 content (an approximately 4% acceptance rate for COVID-19-related original research manuscript submissions) than our average acceptance rate. We were fortunate to receive and publish several consensus statements, guidelines, and their derivatives to provide clinical guidance to our readers.

Through a commitment made by our publisher, we were able to publish our accepted manuscripts online through a fast-track process (typically within 48 hours of acceptance) and with free access. We made our COVID-19 content available in collections both through CHEST and Elsevier. Ultimately, nine of our top 10 downloaded articles in 2020 were related to COVID-19, as were all of our top 10 cited articles published in 2020.

Lessons for the Years Ahead

Looking back, 2020 will be remembered for many reasons for many years. Looking forward, the lessons we learned in 2020 are likely to influence medical publishing in the years ahead. This experience has reaffirmed the need for scholarly publications to filter content through review, exposed processes that impact the ease of submission and timeliness of review, and strengthened our understanding of the need to digest and communicate content in varied and creative ways.

CHEST will continue to work on these processes to improve the experience of our contributors and the impact of their work. Thank you to everyone who volunteered their time to support the journal in 2020. We could not have been successful without you.


Peter J. Mazzone, MD, MPH, FCCP Peter J. Mazzone, MD, MPH, FCCP, is a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. He currently directs the Lung Cancer Program for the Cleveland Clinic Respiratory Institute and the Lung Cancer Screening Program and Nodule Management Program for the Cleveland Clinic. He is the Editor in Chief of the journal CHEST.


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