Top 10 Most Read in August: The incubation period of COVID-19, gender bias in peer review and new face mask testing.

August saw a number of new papers enter BMJ Open’s top 10 most read articles. First up is a rapid systematic review of estimates of the incubation period of COVID-19. The incubation period is the time in days from the point of COVID-19 exposure to the onset of symptoms. Having reliable estimates of the incubation period is vital to making effective decisions on how to control the virus. The mean and median incubation period of COVID-19 was found to be 5.8 days and 5.1 days, respectively, although the authors caution that recommendations need to be revisited once further relevant information becomes available.

Also new in August is a large cross-sectional analysis of gender bias in the peer review reports of grant proposals submitted to a national funding agency (the Swiss National Science Foundation, SNSF). 38,250 reports were analysed in total with the authors finding that male applicants received more favourable evaluation scores than female applicants, and male reviewers awarded higher scores than female reviewers, suggesting peer review of grant applications at SNSF may be prone to gender bias.

Other new entries published in August include, in 5th place, a clinical trial of oral versus intramuscular vitamin B12 for vitamin B12 deficiency in primary care, finding that oral administration was no less effective than IM administration at 8 weeks. In 6th place is a review of clinician and patient beliefs about diagnostic imaging for low back pain, finding that patients may be underestimating the harms of unnecessary imaging tests.

Our most popular article in August was by James Byrne and colleagues from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They report the testing of a new reusable, sterilisable N95 filtering facepiece respirator-comparable face mask (the iMASC system) for potential use in the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen major shortages of personal protective equipment. Results indicate that the new mask fits multiple different face sizes and shapes.


Rank Author(s) Title
1 Byrne et al. Injection Molded Autoclavable, Scalable, Conformable (iMASC) system for aerosol-based protection: a prospective single-arm feasibility study
2 Grimes et al. Establishing a taxonomy of potential hazards associated with communicating medical science in the age of disinformation
3 Liu et al. Intravenous high-dose vitamin C for the treatment of severe COVID-19: study protocol for a multicentre randomised controlled trial
4 Mehta et al. Characteristics of registered clinical trials assessing treatments for COVID-19: a cross-sectional analysis
5 Sanz-Cuesta et al. Oral versus intramuscular administration of vitamin B12 for vitamin B12 deficiency in primary care: a pragmatic, randomised, non-inferiority clinical trial (OB12)
6 Sharma et al. Clinician and patient beliefs about diagnostic imaging for low back pain: a systematic qualitative evidence synthesis
7 Severin et al. Gender and other potential biases in peer review: cross-sectional analysis of 38 250 external peer review reports
8 McAloon et al. Incubation period of COVID-19: a rapid systematic review and meta-analysis of observational research
9 Godoy-Cumillaf et al. Effects of physical activity interventions on the body mass index of children and adolescents in Latin America: a protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis
10 Dearing et al. Pharmacist-led intervention to improve medication use in older inpatients using the Drug Burden Index: a study protocol for a before/after intervention with a retrospective control group and multiple case analysis

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