UK covid-19 science failures

The Government is not giving a clear lead

  • The UK Government should be explaining the science around covid-19, and the reasons for Government decisions.
  • Government scientists (the Chief Scientist and the Chief Medical Officer) should be giving clear explanations and answer any questions (if necessary via Q and A documents).
  • Government ministers and other politicians should be giving clear explanations based on what the government scientists are saying.

This is not happening, and this is causing
  • loss of trust
  • conspiracy theories
  • loss of compliance.

Fringe scientists are giving very poor advice, including an unworkable solution of population immunity

Some fringe scientists are causing confusion by
  • claiming to be an authority on the subject because they currently work or have previously worked as scientists - whereas the authority that scientists have comes from them reporting an evidence-based consensus
  • making wrong statements i.e. that conflict with the available evidence
  • making statements for which no evidence exists
  • publishing analyses that bypass the normal check that weed out errors by:
    • publishing on Twitter or their own websites rather than in a peer review publication
    • failing to properly explain the background, methods, results, and conclusions
    • not engaging with scientists who hold different views in order to resolve the differences
    • not engaging with criticism
    • not acknowledging and correcting errors

So rather than acting like scientists, they are acting like third rate politicians.

An example is the Barrington Declaration advocating population/"herd" immunity more here.

In the absence of clear government information, there is much poor quality science, pseudoscience and misinformation online

Poor quality science
There are a lot of analyses posted on Twitter or own websites.

A lot of these are poor quality, and suffer from
  • the content has not been checked as it would be if published in a peer review journal
  • poor structure
  • insufficient background information
  • methods not clearly explained in enough detail for the work to be replicated
  • data sources not given
  • results wrong, poorly presented and uncertainties not dealt with adequately
  • conclusions not justified
  • conclusions not discussed in relation to other work in the field
  • lack of accountability
So anyone posting original work online should be encouraged to submit it for publication in a peer review journal (fast-tracking is available for many), so that
  • it can be checked
  • findings can be challenged via letters to the editor and replies from the author

There are many myths and misunderstandings circulating on the internet more here.

First published: 17 Oct 2020
Last updated: 10 Nov 2020