The one take away from this Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 is science and politics don’t mix well together. In a rush to print, research papers are being presented without the time honored test of peer review. This is a critical flaw. A second even greater concern is the sound bites of politicians. Neither of these issues are helping society deal with this novel corona virus.
Good Science versus Bad
So, how does the layman determine the validity of scientific papers? Several clues help. First, how is the research released? Peer reviewed scientific research is the best. Such articles are examined thoroughly by individuals in the field of study. So these are the articles to utilize. My personal favorites are The New England Journal of Medicine; Science; and Nature.
Articles found in such publications refer directly to the source. Additionally, attached links are provided to connect the reader to the actual research paper. Finally, methodology is explained and the outcomes include the statistical variances for error.
Secondly, beware of research which first appears as a headline in a newspaper. An example would be the recent release of the study by Stanford researchers on the incidence of Covid-19. The released study reports the virus is much wider spread than previously thought. However, a peer review of the study is not available. Thus the conclusions are premature. This is bad science.
The paper is flawed. A better explanation of the errors than I can give can be found by clicking here. At best, the goal of the premature release is to provide hope for a frightened populace. At worst, it is a political ploy.
Lastly, look for secondary studies that independently confirm the original study. Often the scope of a first study has limits. Validation from larger later studies is important from a scientific standpoint.
Politicians and Pandemics
Science and politics don’t mix well under most conditions. But a pandemic can make things worse. Worldwide there are many elections in 2020. The Iranians experienced a low turnout of just over 42%. Officials attributed the reduced participation to the corona virus. Perhaps this is true. But it is also a possibility that the politicians are using the pandemic as an excuse.
On the other hand, Israel had a record turn-out for their election; the third in a year’s time. The Israeli’s had special voting stations available for citizens infected by the virus. Other countries facing elections this year should consider this model.
Science and Politics Don’t Mix Well in America
The political elections in the United States next fall are already impacting the scientific response to Covid-19. The White House holds daily press conferences on the pandemic. Ostensibly, this is critical information for the public. I believe they may have started out with this intent. However, I now think the gatherings are as much a campaign venue as an informational release.
Further danger arises from the political influences on science. Covid-19 is new. Therefore, scientists need to investigate without fear of funding loss or political gain. So, the science needs to remain separate. It is naturally human to want a fast fix. But that may not happen regardless of money or political desire.
As discussed above, the scientific studies need to be independent and then peer reviewed. Furthermore, secondary studies need to be completed. Politicians should not push for limited research. Anecdotal positive results are not conclusive. Thorough research is a priority.
Conversely, scientists need to concentrate on the science. Rushing studies will only backfire. As individuals, we may have our own political beliefs. But, researchers need to put politics aside. At this point in time, all possible treatments need to be vetted by studies. Science and politics don’t mix well and both sectors need to focus on their jobs.
Here are the relevant links to this post: