Article Text

Original research
Citation impact and social media visibility of Great Barrington and John Snow signatories for COVID-19 strategy
  1. John P Ioannidis
  1. Departments of Medicine, of Epidemiology and Population Health, of Biomedical Data Science, and of Statistics, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr John P Ioannidis; jioannid{at}stanford.edu

Abstract

Objective The Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) and the John Snow Memorandum (JSM), each signed by numerous scientists, have proposed hotly debated strategies for handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The current analysis aimed to examine whether the prevailing narrative that GBD is a minority view among experts is true.

Methods The citation impact and social media presence of the key GBD and JSM signatories was assessed. Citation data were obtained from Scopus using a previously validated composite citation indicator that incorporated also coauthorship and author order and ranking was against all authors in the same Science-Metrix scientific field with at least five full papers. Random samples of scientists from the longer lists of signatories were also assessed. The number of Twitter followers for all key signatories was also tracked.

Results Among the 47 key GBD signatories, 20, 19 and 21, respectively, were top-cited authors for career impact, recent single-year (2019) impact or either. For comparison, among the 34 key JSM signatories, 11, 14 and 15, respectively, were top cited. Key signatories represented 30 different scientific fields (9 represented in both documents, 17 only in GBD and 4 only in JSM). In a random sample of n=30 scientists among the longer lists of signatories, five in GBD and three in JSM were top cited. By April 2021, only 19/47 key GBD signatories had personal Twitter accounts versus 34/34 of key JSM signatories; 3 key GBD signatories versus 10 key JSM signatories had >50 000 Twitter followers and extraordinary Kardashian K-indices (363–2569). By November 2021, four key GBD signatories versus 13 key JSM signatories had >50 000 Twitter followers.

Conclusions Both GBD and JSM include many stellar scientists, but JSM has far more powerful social media presence and this may have shaped the impression that it is the dominant narrative.

  • COVID-19
  • health policy
  • medical ethics

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article. Data are available in a public, open access repository. All the data are in the manuscript and tables and additional detail on citation data are available in publicly deposited data sets in Mendeley.

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article. Data are available in a public, open access repository. All the data are in the manuscript and tables and additional detail on citation data are available in publicly deposited data sets in Mendeley.

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Footnotes

  • Contributors JPI conceptualised the original idea, collected the data, analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. JPI is guarantor.

  • Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests The author has signed neither of the two documents and has many friends, collaborators and other people who he knows and he admires among those who have signed each of them. JPI has previously published that he is very skeptical about signature collection for scientific matters (BMJ 2020;371:m4048). He has no personal social media and he believes that the fact that his citation indices are extremely high only proves (when compared against his self-acknowledged vast ignorance) that these indices can occasionally be very unreliable. JPI congratulates all the thousands of signatories (of both documents) for their great sense of social responsibility.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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