On 11 April Neel Shah, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynaecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School, published a grim assessment of the scientific research into covid-19 and its effects on pregnancy.1
This BMJ open access paper articulates what we have all suspected and told each other, the COVID-19 pandemic and the turbulent forces swirling around it have fuelled the worst side of science and stripped bare the damage it causes.
Shah explains his concerns to The BMJ: “I understand the challenge of providing evidence based research [on the pandemic]. But people like me on the front line have to make life or death decisions based on the information that we have. We have to be willing to update what we believe more rapidly—and yet there’s so much information that is hard to trust it makes our jobs very difficult.”
The covid-19 pandemic has created an urgent need for scientific evidence to help politicians, doctors, researchers, and the general public understand this evolving situation. The problem is that good science, which requires scrutiny and replication, simply cannot move at the speed of the rolling news cycle. Over the past 20 years responses to the misreporting of medical theories has resulted in a series of checks and balances to protect all concerned from hasty or even bad science. The professionals at the helm of those controls, they tell The BMJ, are worried: quality seems to be slipping, and there are question marks over findings and problems with publishing and reporting.
Research on covid-19 is suffering “imperfect incentives at every stage”