More than 7,000 papers on the pandemic—covering everything from virology to epidemiology—have appeared in the past three months (see chart). A fifth of them have come out in the past week alone.
This is astonishingly fast. Researchers usually take years to design experiments, collect data and check results. Scientific journals, the self-appointed keepers of the gate between those researchers and the rest of the world, can easily take six months, often a year, to grind through the various steps of their procedure, including editing and the process of checking by anonymous outside experts, known as peer review.
There have been numerous clarion calls made to prevent “exceptionalism”. You can have any number of trials but if all of them are working to find out the same thing, it would only lead to duplication of resources and inconclusive results.
Peer review, is the hallmark but is it really that rigorous? Blindsided, yes. But there is any number of reasons to show that the system is broken.
Here’s another thing:
On March 9th the South China Morning Post, an English-language newspaper in Hong Kong, published an article about research reported in Practical Preventive Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal, with a headline that read “coronavirus can travel twice as far as official safe distance”. This article has been shared more than 53,000 times on social media. Unfortunately, the study in question was retracted the day after the newspaper article was published. The Post reported the retraction immediately, but that report was shared less than 1,000 times.
How many people will actually publish or pursue retractions?
There’s another reason why I don’t follow Twitter for research. It’s banal, stupidity and a complete waste of time. There are better ways to focus on issues.