1326 e-Letters

  • On "weaponization"

    I thank Prof. Ioannidis for his second response (1) and am gratified that, as much as he disagrees with me, he considers me a talented science communicator. Although I am even more honored to realize that someone of Prof. Ioannidis' prominence is not only aware of the humble blog for which I serve as managing editor (2) but is sufficiently familiar with posts containing my much longer critique of his Kardashian index study (3) and that of one of my co-bloggers of some of his—shall we say?—less temperate assertions about the pandemic (4), to the point of having done actual word counts for both posts (5, 6), I am nonetheless disappointed to have to note that his response would seem to validate at least some of my criticisms (7, 8) of his study (9) and his prior responses (5, 6). Also, given that he has criticized one of my bloggers for "conspiracy theories," I feel the obligation to respond to defend him—and, of course, myself—for having used his blog post in my previous response (8).

    What seems to have raised Prof. Ioannidis' ire the most was my observation about his having repeated a narrative that was an early conspiracy theory during the pandemic, which he described as facilitating weaponization of his words by linking him with conspiracy theories. I would counter that conspiracy theorists do not need me in the least; they were doing an outstanding job of "weaponizing" Prof. Ioannidis' words without my input, thanks to Prof. Ioan...

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  • Response to commentary on the BB:2-6 study report

    We thank Professor Olds for his thoughts on our work and we are happy to respond accordingly.1,2 Our paper reporting the cohort study directly addresses the risk of bias associated with health care professionals being aware of trial allocation.2 In our Discussion we elaborate on the potential mechanisms and opportunities for such bias to effect study findings in the UK trial setting, use evidence from the trial’s process evaluation where applicable and contemporary service data where available. We invited readers to form their own view on the plausibility and likelihood of subversion and would particularly welcome reflection from contemporary service professionals. Second, it should be noted that notification about trial participation and allocation was required under ethical approval for the trial and not simply a design choice. Finally, we systematically captured a wide range of participant-reported health and social contacts including for health visitors.3 This reflected the complex publicly funded supportive care available across both trial arms. We consider this added a richer picture of the disaggregated support available to and accessed by first-time mothers in the trial.

    The difference in reported health visitor contacts in the original trial report (which included imputed values) and in the subsequent process evaluation paper and our current report (which includes recorded values only) is already addressed in the first section of the paper’s Discussion sect...

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  • Obvious conflict of interest

    Mr Ioannnidis is close to the initiators of the Great Barrington initiative. He uses biased data and false logic to pursue yet another attempt at confusing the public on the scientific consensus regarding covid19 prevention and control.

  • Third set of replies

    I thank Meyerowitz-Katz, Rigby, Nurse and Grant for their comments, Gorski for his second comment and Bak-Coleman for his third comment.
    Meyerowitz-Katz offers valuable insights. In-depth analyses of GBD and JSM scientists in diverse social media platforms is an excellent idea. Nurse and Grant also make astute suggestions on this issue. A collaborative effort may be launched, since Gorski and Bak-Coleman also make similar points in passim. Collectively the team has superb complementary expertise. Such studies could also perform in-depth content analyses and interviews of scientists, and then IRB approval is indispensable. I also fully agree that pre-pandemic social media activity and rate of growth during the pandemic deserve attention. Probably GBD has a more steep increase over time than JSM; this may associate also with increasing acceptance of its proposals. The pandemic exploded social media presence for many scientists (e.g. Jay Bhattacharya: no Twitter account in April 2021, 81,000 followers in November 2021, 170,000 in February 2022). Analyses should separate social media presence of organizations. Organizations serve too many purposes to fix them to one or the other document. Moreover, comparing dissemination of the 2 main documents across non-Twitter social media is biased: GBD attracted signatures also from the general public (close to 1 million signatures to-date), while JSM remained focused to experts. Given this different outlook, unsurprisingly GBD...

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  • It Is Not “Divisive” to Criticize Science Misinformation

    In the latest response to his growing number of critics [1], Professor Ioannidis forcefully defends his record and continues to suggest that having signed neither the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) nor the John Snow Memo (JSM), he is in an objective position. In a previous response [2], Professor Ioannidis has selectively quoted from interviews and events that occurred in the spring of 2020 to make a case that he has not lobbied for the positions espoused by the GBD and thus argues that he has no undeclared conflicts of interests. This is unfortunate, as there is evidence of his views at the more relevant time (the fall of 2020, when both the GBD and JSM were published).

    In late 2020, the White House coronavirus czar was Dr Scott Atlas, a colleague of Professor Ioannidis at Stanford. The appointment was controversial because of Dr Atlas’s lack of experience with infectious disease control. It is a matter of record that President Trump held a roundtable in August 2020 that included Atlas and two GBD authors, Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff [3, 4]. This was a secret meeting; details about it were only made public a year later, thanks to the work of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis [3]. The day after this meeting, President Trump described his strategy as "sheltering those at highest risk, especially the elderly, while allowing lower risk Americans to safely return to work and to school...they have to get back to work," a strategy t...

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  • Scientific Inadequacies in Social Media Analysis

    In this paper, the primary ambition is stated as: "Here, an analysis is being performed to try to evaluate the scientific impact and the social media visibility of the key signatories who have led the two strategies… Concurrently, an additional analysis evaluated the social media visibility of signatories, as denoted by Twitter followers ". However, the methodology used is clearly inadequate for this stated purpose, with the ultimate consequence that the paper is largely meaningless as an analysis of social media visibility.

    A key limitation not noted in this study is that the author has chosen to use a metric designed for one of the smallest social media platforms in the world. While precise figures may be opaquely calculated due to commercial interests, Twitter reported 192 million monetizable active users in 2020 (1), and according to the data aggregation website Statista has a total of 436 million 'active' users as of October 2021 (2). This is in stark contrast to other social media sites such as Facebook (2.9 billion users) Youtube (2.3 billion users) and even newer platforms such as Telegram (550 million users) Snapchat (538 million users) and Tiktok (1 billion users) (2).

    On examining other social media sites, the inadequacy of using only metrics derived from Twitter becomes immediately apparent. Facebook shares can be analyzed freely through several websites linked to the API (3,4), and these show that the URL for the Great Barring...

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  • Response to Prof. Ioannidis

    I thank Prof. Ioannidis for his response. Although I am honored that someone of Prof. Ioannidis' prominence is aware of the blog for which I serve as managing editor—even so flatteringly noticing the word count of my blog post about his study (1).

    Unfortunately, it is difficult for me not to notice that in his responses (the first of which he referred me to so pointedly) (2, 3), Prof. Ioannidis continues to show no indication that he understands the massive conceptual flaw at the heart of his analysis: The Kardashian index was meant as a joke. He even responds, "The Twitter presence of many signatories is loud (even if laudable) regardless of whether number of followers is expressed as absolute count, k-index, log10, square root, or sinφ. Twitter influence on public perception of science, media, and policy is large, an elephant in the room that needs better study. An elephant is an elephant regardless of whether one presents his weight in kilograms or in pounds" (3) This comparison not only mistakenly represents Twitter as the be-all and end-all of social media influence—leading me to suggest that at all costs he stay away from Tik Tok—but also falsely equates using a satirical measure for an inappropriately serious purpose with a simple choice between commonly accepted units of measure. Indeed, this failure to recognize the K-index as satire on the part of Prof. Ioannidis and the peer reviewers would seem to me to reinforce Neil Hall's very poin...

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  • Bak-Coleman: Final thoughts

    Dr. Ioannidis has responded to a request to disclose the statistical tests used to compute p-values by calling them a superfluous " focus on statistical testing." Given that such a simple request was met with deflection and hostility, it is difficult to see how further discussion will be productive or advance scientific knowledge in any meaningful way.

    This paper serves as a powerful testament to how highly-cited scientists are not beholden to even the most basic standards of scientific research. They needn't follow ethical norms, disclose conflicts of interest, consider the validity of metrics, or even report which analysis they used.

    They are free to publish numerically-glazed opinions in prestigious venues intended to house knowledge. For the rest of us, there's Twitter.

  • The Fallacy of Equating Citation Data with Scientific Qualkity or Impact

    The paper by Ioannidis is fatally flawed by the assumption that citation counts and Twitter activity correlate with scientific quality or health and policy impact. No hypothesis has been presented to support this. Opportunities to publish at scale will be influenced by length of career, and by other academic commitments. Reasons for high citation of papers may be to challenge or seek more clarity as much to commend or build on them. This point has been demonstrated in a peer reviewed paper which contrasted the examples of publication of contentious views gaining high citations, while a research finding which quickly got applied in practice had a single publication (1); the high-cited author eventually had his licence to practice withdrawn, while he who led to many lives being saved globally had no profile. Ioannidis seems to confuse noise and twittering with good grounding and integrity of evidence.

    (1) Rigby M. Citation Analysis in Health Care Sciences - Innovative Investigation or Seductive Pseudo-science?; Methods Inf Med 2014; 53(06): 459-463, DOI: 10.3414/ME14-05-0004

  • Reply to Gorski, Dahly, Pimenta and to second comments by Yamey and Bak-Coleman

    I thank Gorski, Dahly, and Pimenta for their criticism and Yamey and Bak-Coleman for their second round of comments. As already stated, I signed neither GBD nor JSM, my study did not aim to elevate or downgrade one or the other narrative, and I congratulate all GBD and JSM signatories. The 443 signatories from GBD include 4 scientists with whom I have co-authored, and 3 with Stanford affiliation. The respective first 443 signatories of JSM include 5 scientists with whom I have co-authored, and 15 with Stanford affiliation. I have co-authored COVID-19 scientific papers with both GBD and JSM signatories (more with the latter). I have more close ongoing collaborators and friends in JSM than GBD. According to Scopus I have 6590 co-authors and probably >200 have signed GBD or JSM. I have learned from both JSM and GBD colleagues and I thank them all for sharing their wisdom.

    As I did in my original paper, I applaud Pimenta again for his amazing work. Additional studies of engagement, impressions and reach would be very useful to perform. Pimenta defends fervently but needlessly some of the JSM main points, since my paper attacked neither JSM nor GBD. It only showed that both lists include many stellar scientists and that JSM had overwhelming Twitter presence. This is emphatically obvious also in the Twitter reception of my paper.

    Gorski apparently submitted his rapid response and his 7591 words long blog in his sciencebasedmedicine.org website before seeing my...

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