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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Scientific knowledge production and academic labor in unsettled times : Covid-19 pandemic, preprint servers, epistemic validation, and gendered work Lachapelle, Francois


In this dissertation, I argue that an emerging way of science-making emerged in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, organized around preprint servers. This challenged the traditional channel of scholarly communication, organized around academic peer-reviewed journals. The outbreak science of COVID-19 needed a fast and efficient means to disseminate scientific knowledge and accelerate the accumulation of the knowledge base. With the classical peer-review system viewed as slow and ineffective, English language preprint servers surfaced as an excellent solution to handle the problem of knowledge dissemination. I argue, however, that the preprint servers do more than simply fix the ineffectiveness of academic journals at handling epistemic dissemination. Preprint servers participate in a profound reversal of epistemic evaluators and the logic of scientific capital. The early dissemination of preprint manuscripts propels scientific readers and other social actors (journalists, governmental officials, civil society) into the role of primary evaluators of scientific knowledge. The social triangle at the center of the classical scientific order of academic journals (editors, committees, and reviewers) is relegated to secondary evaluators. Preprint manuscripts are also cited independently of their publication status. Authors of preprints can accumulate citations and claim scientific authority without the support of the classical system. I begin by measuring the proportion of COVID-19 preprints published in peer-reviewed journals. To do so, I built the best performing matching algorithm to date. I also designed Upload-or-Publish API that allows researchers and other stakeholders to consult the publication status of COVID-19 preprints. The results suggest that the crisis model of knowledge production is partly operating in parallel with the classical scientific order. Then, I use logistic regression to examine the impact of scientific impact and social attention on the likelihood that preprint manuscripts get published in peer-reviewed journals. I find partial support for the hypothesis that after receiving a certain level of scholarly and social scrutiny, the chance of publishing decreases. Finally, I examine the gender gap in COVID-19 research. I find that female researchers were disadvantaged, relative to male scholars, in participating in COVID-19 research and knowledge dissemination.

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