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The Science of This Pandemic Is Moving at Dangerous Speeds – WIRED (Adam Marcus & Ivan Oransky | March 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on April 12, 2020

Much of the research that emerges in the coming weeks will turn out to be unreliable, even wrong. We’ll be OK if we remember that.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION has made many stumbles in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, but one of the key failures was not having enough kits to test for the pathogen once it appeared in the United States. Instead of accepting kits from other countries—including the ones approved by the World Health Organization—the White House went its own way.

On March 17, Deborah Birx, the physician coordinating the administration’s scientific response to the Covid-19 outbreak in the United States, tried to explain the rejections. “It doesn’t help to put out a test where 50 percent or 47 percent are false positives,” Birx told reporters, suggesting that at least some overseas tests were deeply flawed. A few days later, FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn again mentioned the 47-percent error rate in an interview with National Public Radio, attributing it to “an abstract that was recently published in the literature.” He continued: “What that means is that if you had a positive test, it was pretty close to a flip of a coin as to whether it was real or not.

That sounds reasonable. After all, a test that is no better than a coin flip would do far more harm than good, burdening an already overwhelmed health care system with a tidal wave of well but worried people. Birx is a highly respected scientist whose résumé includes taking on the AIDS epidemic, and Hahn heads perhaps the nation’s most important health agency. But in this case, they appear to have relied on data that, for reasons that are still unclear, has been withdrawn from the scientific literature

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Science Communications In the Time of Coronavirus – WYNC Studios (March 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on April 12, 2020

We are all now, it seems, amateur epidemiologists, trying to find a way past the contagion that’s overturned our lives. We follow the headlines: A blood test that may detect coronavirus antibodies. Potential treatments for the associated pneumonia. You might learn about breakthroughs on Twitter or Facebook, but often they first appear on what are called preprint servers. In fact, Ivan Oransky, professor of medical journalism at NYU and co-founder of Retraction Watch, says that many of the purported breakthroughs around the virus are being shared in spaces that are unfamiliar to many civilians, and mostly unvetted. Here, Oransky explains to Brooke why these preprints — which have been so essential for scientists sharing their research and data — should, as with all science publishing, be approached with some skepticism.

This is a segment from our March 27, 2020 program, Playing The Hero.

Access the page and stream or download the file

Coronavirus is a Wakeup Call for Academic Conferences. Here’s Why – Scholarly Kitchen (Sami Benchekroun and Michelle Kuepper | March 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on April 6, 2020

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Sami Benchekroun and Michelle Kuepper, respectively Co-Founder/Managing Director and Head of Communications at Morressier, the platform for early-stage research. (Full disclosure: use of this platform is mentioned in the post below)

The current international health crisis surrounding coronavirus is wreaking havoc across the globe and is now also having a major impact on the scholarly ecosystem. Academic conferences are being hardest hit as event after event is cancelled to reduce the risk of the virus spreading further.

Academic and clinical conferences are amongst the matters that may be irrevocably changed by the impact of COVID-19.  This Scholarly Kitchen piece discusses the change.

These cancelations are resulting in turmoil for many would-be attendees who have often spent months preparing for events and not only lose out on time and money, but also on the opportunity to discover and share valuable early-stage research. This can be particularly devastating for early-career researchers who are more reliant on the exposure and networking opportunities that conferences offer to get ahead in their careers.

Cancelled meetings also have a detrimental impact on scientific progress as a whole. Conferences are often the first place for the latest findings to be shared with the community, and without them we also lose vital early-stage research, discussion opportunities, and professional connections — all of which could lead to the next breakthrough or valuable new collaboration opportunity.

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Does Research Have Any Value in a Refugee Crisis? – Scholarly Kitchen (Haseeb Irfanullah | April 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on April 5, 2020

Bangladesh is now hosting more than 859,000 Rohingyas — the ethnic Muslim minority of Myanmar — at 34 refugee camps on its southeastern Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf peninsula. Between 25 August and 31 December 2017, over 723,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh to save themselves from genocide in Myanmar. These people are staying in camps created by clearing 2,500 hectares of forestland. The Government of Bangladesh, donors, UN agencies, and national and international NGOs are collectively managing this unmeasurable humanitarian crisis.

This Scholarly Kitchen piece makes a good point about worrying less about publishing in prestigious journals for academic sake and more about making sure the outcomes are given to people who can actually make use of the information.

The challenges around this crisis are multi-dimensional and complex — fulfilling refugees’ everyday basic needs, protecting them from illegal exploitation, ensuring the future of the 55% who are children, saving them from epidemics and pandemics, reducing potential tension between the Rohingya refugees and the Bangladeshi hosts, and tackling geopolitics around this crisis to name but a few. To researchers, this crisis gives a tremendous opportunity to explore the situations, explain the challenges, test ideas and innovations, recommend solutions, and evaluate actions.

But academic research takes time. Response to humanitarian emergencies like a refugee crisis, on the other hand, is all about urgent action. Here a delay can be a question of life or death. Refugee crises thus demand actions based upon past experiences — what worked and what could work given certain factors within a specific context and ground reality.

Read the rest of this discussion piece