TL;DR: We are researchers and a journalist here today to answer questions you might have on the lack of transparency and the misuse of some basic scientific principles that we have observed and on which we gathered data during COVID19. We hope to provide you with a multidisciplinary outlook of this and to answer all your questions.


We are Clémence Leyrat, Corentin Segalas, Lonni Besançon, and Julien Hernandez 4 researchers and a scientific journalist who have looked at COVID19 research and potential misuses of basic transparency research principles.

Our findings are available as a preprint and all our data is available online. To sum up, our findings are that:

Preprints (non peer-reviewed manuscripts) on COVID19 have been mentioned in the news approximately 10 times more than preprints on other topics published during the same period.

  • Approximately 700 articles have been accepted for publication in less than 24 hours, among which 224 were detailing new research results. Out of these 224 papers, 31% had editorial conflicts of interest (i.e., the authors of the papers were also part of the editorial team of the journal).

  • There has been a large amount of duplicated research projects probably leading to potential scientific waste.

  • There have been numerous methodologically flawed studies which could have been avoided if research protocols were transparently shared and reviewed before the start of a clinical trial.

  • Finally, the lack of data sharing and code sharing led to the now famous The Lancet scandal on Surgisphere

We hope that we can all shed some light on our findings and answer your questions. So there you go, ask us anything.

Participants:

  • u/Clem_stat Clémence Leyrat, assistant professor in medical stats at London School of Hygiene Tropical medicine, UK. Proof.Twitter

  • u/BarbuSceptique Julien Hernandez, scientific journalist. Proof. Twitter

  • u/crsgls Corentin Segalas, postdoctoral researcher at London School of Hygiene Tropical medicine, UK. Proof

  • u/lonnib Lonni Besançon, postdoctoral researcher at Monash University, Australia and Linköping University, Sweden. Proof. Twitter

Edit:

Thank /u/coffeewithnutmeg, /u/laidbackleo87, u/KatvanG, u/NyghtRavyn, u/MistressEffin, /u/caracanell, u/DeviantTurd, and kind strangers for the silver, the gold, the "Hugz", the "Rocket", the "Faith In Humanity Restored", the "Excited", and the "wholesome" awards

Edit 2:

Going to call this a night. It's 1:00 am here and we've got work tomorrow. We'll take on questions tomorrow when we see them so keep posting folks

Edit 3:

Back online!

I'll use this post to also remind everyone that if you want to help, remember that you can give your CPU/GPU time to help research on COVID 19 through projects like [email protected]

Comments: 411 • Responses: 84  • Date: 

porkchopnet157 karma

A vaccine which is 90% effective sounds amazing, but with just the initial trial, it’s also possibly overly optimistic.

Is this 90% number science... or marketing?

lonnib55 karma

As of now, I don't think that they have released anything more than a press-release. The press release is definitely marketing. I am personally waiting for the data to be public and their protocol to obtain the data too. Without this, it's impossible to know what this number means I would say.

Edit: u/barbusceptique is a journalist and might be able to answer that better than I would

lucaxx8516 karma

Actually, differently from a peer reviewed paper, if you make a press release about a public company on the market that is inaccurate you directly go to jail. I'm pretty sure therefore that they are being accurate.

lonnib36 karma

Part of it is accurate for sure, the thing is we don't know what "90% effective" really means and it what context it was obtained... so even if true it's still hard to know if it is reliable.

VIVAJESUCRISTO4 karma

I read it only applies to people who HAVEN'T had covid yet, us this true?

lonnib5 karma

I actually don't know at all. Where did you read this?

VIVAJESUCRISTO10 karma

The original tweet by the Pfizer company (I may not have understood it as I know nothing about science):

"UPDATE: We are proud to announce, along with

@BioNTech_Group

, that our mRNA-based #vaccine candidate has, at an interim analysis, demonstrated initial evidence of efficacy against #COVID19 in participants without prior evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection."

lonnib23 karma

Does not mean, if I read this correctly, that it would not work on people who have had COVID, just that their sample did not include any so they can't say anything about that.

WhatTheFugacity_-3 karma

This number is marketing. I have heard about the raw data, and whoever wrote the 90% is clearly not familiar with basic stats or vaccine trials. Their sample size is also too small to come to any grandiose conclusions.

Definitely will look bad for Pfizer. Interested to see how this plays out.

lonnib13 karma

Do you have a source on this? (looks like I'm the one asking questions now)

MBCestMoi85 karma

Hello! Medical doctor here! Thank you for all your efforts upholding scientific truths in a time when it seems like the value for truth has lost its worth.

Quick question about the future vaccine. I personally feel like there is a lack of concerted, coordinated, international effort to develop this vaccine. With the lack of a common goal between independent research no wonder there’s so much scientific waste.

Do you think it’s not too late for a body/entity to lead this global effort, or do you think that this is impossible considering how much of the vaccine development is run by separate companies?

lonnib47 karma

Hi and thanks a lot for the question!

Quick question about the future vaccine. I personally feel like there is a lack of concerted, coordinated, international effort to develop this vaccine. With the lack of a common goal between independent research no wonder there’s so much scientific waste.

We did this analysis before the vaccine was a thing so we don't have any data. I seem to recall that a firm actually shared publicly their vaccine's protocol and "recipe" online a while ago so I guess some are making an effort in order to not waste scientific resources. But I would tend to agree, science seems much more about careers (for scientists) and money (for companies) in some cases that I am often left with that feeling too.

Do you think it’s not too late for a body/entity to lead this global effort, or do you think that this is impossible considering how much of the vaccine development is run by separate companies?

I want to think that it's not too late. WHO should be able to do this perhaps? Or should they not... it's a difficult question that goes beyond science and involves politics and economics too.

I personally would like everything to be either public domain or CC-BY (and I apply that to all my productions, scientific or others like photographies), especially when it comes to health, but the US has definitely taken another approach it seems... Europe has it a little bit better I guess in the sense that everyone has access to meds, but companies still make a profit... I guess companies should be able to make a profit but the question is more how much and how their profit align or not with people's health. Surely there is a better trade-off than what we currently have.

Haul-Of-Frames74 karma

hi, thank you for doing this ama! what is the process to follow when basic scientific/research principles are misused in research? do you get papers taken down or do they just need to be labelled as potentially flawed? if these papers are cited elsewhere, is it a requirement to note the shortcomings of the research done?

how do you make non-scientific people (like me, or even possibly news agencies for that matter) aware of the fact that certain studies are flawed so that they do not reference them as reliable sources?

lonnib42 karma

Hi and thanks for this super interesting question.

I would say that there are actually several questions within your question here.

what is the process to follow when basic scientific/research principles are misused in research?

You can flag that paper to the editors of the journal with the evidence you have gathered, or reply to that specific paper with what we call a commentary: its goal is to highlight the shortcomings of the aforementioned paper.

do you get papers taken down or do they just need to be labelled as potentially flawed?

Papers do get taken down, we call it retraction. Several COVID19 papers have been retracted (and in our data we analysed why they were). You can follow "retraction watch" to know what papers have been retracted. Papers that have been retracted usually have a notice on their publication page.

how do you make non-scientific people (like me, or even possibly news agencies for that matter) aware of the fact that certain studies are flawed so that they do not reference them as reliable sources?

This is a very difficult question to answer. We advocate in our paper for Open Peer Reviews, which means that we want the referees' reports on the paper to be published alongside the paper itself. Often in the reviews, the flaws or limitations of a manuscript are highlighted and the authors are supposed to respond to these and modify their manuscripts accordingly. Publishing the reviews for everyone to see would highlight these initially spotted limitations even more I would say. You can read more about Open Reviews in one of my manuscripts here: https://researchintegrityjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s41073-020-00094-z

Other than this, scientists now use Twitter and Facebook a lot to communicate about science. And sites like PubPeer provide post-publication peer review of manuscript. So if a scientist sees that a manuscript is potentially flawed, they can simply post their questions or highlight their concerns there. I would suggest to always check for retractions and pubpeer comments.

Haul-Of-Frames7 karma

Thank you so much for your answers! I had another question about this:

Given that world leaders like Donald Trump have been known to spread misinformation, and people believe it, do you think papers that are flawed should remain up in case they misguide people's opinions in the scientific community? Twitter flagging Trump's tweets has not completely countered this issue, but scientific researchers (I assume) are a more informed community.

lonnib14 karma

Thank you so much for your answers! I had another question about this:

Thanks for the follow up question :).

Well, papers are tagged and the PDF of the paper is marked with it and there is often a notice. I guess it's sufficient, but I am hoping that when they try to cite a paper, that researchers get a specific notice that the findings of the papers might not hold if it has been retracted and that the citation of the work cannot be used as a science-grounded fact.

Haul-Of-Frames8 karma

That makes sense, thank you!!

lonnib11 karma

No, thank you for the questions. It's a difficult topic and not sure there is a one-fit-all answer :s

mouseparty24 karma

Why do you suggest that duplicated research a bad thing? Can’t it help confirm or question findings?

lonnib35 karma

In reasonable quantities yes, but something like a 100 studies on HCQ while the initial paper about it was methodologically flawed is clearly not a good thing, especially in times when research resources matter.

jacquesrabbit2 karma

Are you familiar with Brandolinis law?

lonnib6 karma

Brandolinis law

Didn't know the name, but was familiar with the concept :)

mouseparty1 karma

That was pretty unusual circumstances given that a major world leader was intervening in the debate over HCQ. A resounding response could be appropriate.

lonnib13 karma

Whatever world leaders have to say about a drug does not change its efficiency or how scientists should (or not) consider a drug. The initial study was methodologically flawed, peer-reviewed in a day only and published in the journal held by the authors... more red flags than usual to not dig further.

But sure a couple of studies should have been run, just not to the extent that has been observed, and especially if we consider (based on the meta-studies conducted later) that some of these studies were also methodologically flawed

Notjustin18 karma

Hi! Thank you for doing this AMA. Are there any common misconceptions that you can dispel? Alternatively, is there anything encouraging in your research that you can share?

lonnib17 karma

Hi and thanks for the question.

Alternatively, is there anything encouraging in your research that you can share?

Yes! There is. With the first version of this paper we asked scientists to co-sign the manuscript and 371 of them did, acknowledging how important transparency is. The preprint started a lot of online conversations and that's exactly what we wanted: to start conversation so that agencies and researchers would stop taking transparency as an optional step.

Are there any common misconceptions that you can dispel?

Not sure where to go with this one, misconceptions around what? :)

Notjustin8 karma

You mentioned the misuse of scientific principles. Is there a common thread there that you see specifically abused? Or do you have general tips on how the average layperson can better disseminate all the information coming at us?

lonnib20 karma

Overall lack of transparency in giving data or protocols is a huge red flag! At least for me. And it's still not the norm to give data unfortunately :(.

Or do you have general tips on how the average layperson can better disseminate all the information coming at us?

I am afraid this is very complicated. Scientists are all drowning in the numbers of papers published per day now and it's all a lot of work and sometimes work that involves complex theories... I would say that the general public should always be cautious of claims that are not nuanced. If a scientist directly said "we cured cancer" I would be very cautious. If the headline of a news article says "scientists cured cancer" but the content of the article is more nuanced then I would publicly call out the news network for the clickbait and then make a long comment on why they did not cure cancer and share it.

MemChem17 karma

Thank you all for doing this AMA

What rules would you most like to see implemented or changed, amongst news networks, when it comes to reporting on COVID-19 research? Or just scientific research in general?

lonnib33 karma

Hi and thanks for the question!

So my response will be opinion-based if that's ok. If you want something more research-grounded I could dig out some papers that I have read on the topic (but that would take some digging, I think we point out to some of these in the preprint that's in the OP anyway though).

So I would like news network to actually go less for the clickbait-worthy headline first of all. I'm tired of reading every X months that researchers have found a cure for [insert_your_cancer_here].

Then I would love it if the media could go for a more science-grounded presentation. I know that the overall process of scientific research is complex, but this complexity has to be visible. Before I went to university, I had no idea how science actually did work. Maybe a short 2-3 hour class on news and science reading for all? Maybe a more thorough and contrasted presentation in the news report? Maybe a combination of both?

Hope that answers your question, if not feel free to ask more :)

Potaytoz14 karma

Do you know what is the actual mortality rate of Covid-19, extrapolating for persons who have contracted and died from the virus but were never tested. How does this compare with the Spanish flu?

lonnib12 karma

Hi and thanks for the question. None of us are epidemiologists, so I guess the best answer would be for you to refer to official data.

The Spanish flu wikipedia page is quite complete :).

Potaytoz2 karma

Thanks so much, and thank you for doing the AMA as well. It was actually my partner who asked, so I'll pass this along to him. Cheers, and keep safe!

lonnib2 karma

Thanks a lot :). Keep safe too :)

fperez767110 karma

Hello! There is a lot of concern on the realistic nature of COVID death rates. I’ve heard a lot of claims of hospitals claiming COVID deaths for the funding, and I feel that there are so many contradictory claims to this point. How serious if at all is this? Is there any evidence of this happening?

lonnib19 karma

Hi and thanks for the question.

None of us are medical doctors, but I've seen this claim in many different countries (Sweden, UK, France, US) and so far all of them have been debunked so I would not trust any of this. Of course there are commorbidities and some people die because they were old/already sick/... but that does not mean that it's not COVID19 striking the final blow so these death should be attributed to it.

When it comes to cigarettes for instance, we don't see so many people complaining about the fact that the count of deaths include some obese/old/sick people whose death was accelerated or caused by cigarettes... There are many examples like this.

I have yet to see any serious evidence (and by that I exclude stupid political speeches or Tik Tok videos) that it is happening and I fail to see why it would happen.

fperez76715 karma

Thank you! This gives context to these claims and gives me direction to continue learning. I wish you guys the best and look forward to keeping up with your research!

lonnib5 karma

Thanks a lot :). We will continue to work on this and will post updates on twitter.

VictorVenema10 karma

I am a fan of Open Science, think it is the future. I moderate the open science subreddit, but I wonder whether we have clear evidence that "Open Science Saves Lives", as the title of your article claims?

More broadly, I think Open Science helps scientific progress, but I do not think we have hard evidence for it. For me this is just intuition. We had science and scientific progress before the open science movement was build. Do you know of any strong evidence? We do not have a counter factual in most cases. Randomized trails are rare and the ones I know do not find any influence.

lonnib8 karma

but I wonder whether we have clear evidence that "Open Science Saves Lives", as the title of your article claims?

Hi and very good question.

Well I guess our title is a bit catchy but here are a couple of points on Open Science.

I don't think you can prove through metrics that Open Science advances science or that it saves lives. It's a theoretical argumentation that we have to go for based on evidence here and there:

  • Open Access gives access to scientific finding to a broader range of people, therefore helping in the sharing and improving of knowledge ultimately. If scientific findings about very negative side effect of a treatment for disease_X used a lot in poor countries are not made publicly available then people will suffer from this...

  • Open Review has been shown to lead to better reviewing quality and therefore improve manuscript and the publication process. For more info, I have a paper on this topic that gives a lot of pointer to other papers here: https://researchintegrityjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s41073-020-00094-z

  • Open Data: well here clearly sharing data can save lives. See the surgisphere examples, what if their findings ruled out an actual treatment of COVID19? The paper was eventually retracted, but it could have caused more harm for sure.

  • Registered reports and open methodology have been shown to improve research quality. We give pointers in the paper.

MESnAround9 karma

Hello, it makes me happy to hear about the work you're doing! Thank you for all of your time.

Your earlier relay that much research effort has been duplicated made me think of some other questions.

  1. What role have governments/GOs/WHO played in coordinating (or hindering) international research apart from existing scientific collaborations and grant giving apparatus' that's been unique to COVID-19 research?
  2. What are some of the causes of this duplication? Is it partly due to an influx of cash with an expedited research grant proposal process?
  3. Is there a valid reason for not sharing research data when it comes to a COVID-19 relevant publication?

lonnib8 karma

Hello, it makes me happy to hear about the work you're doing! Thank you for all of your time.

Thanks a lot for this!

What role have governments/GOs/WHO played in coordinating (or hindering) international research apart from existing scientific collaborations and grant giving apparatus' that's been unique to COVID-19 research?

I don't think anyone has really played a role in this, in any case I'm a not aware of this directly aside from what you already mention.

What are some of the causes of this duplication? Is it partly due to an influx of cash with an expedited research grant proposal process?

It's hard to know. I think a mix of things: grants on it, the initially promising but methodologically flawed Gautret et al. paper, the fact that some scientists wanted to be relevant and cited... it's a lot of things

Edit:

Forgot the last:

Is there a valid reason for not sharing research data when it comes to a COVID-19 relevant publication?

IMHO no. Not at all. I'm sure data can be made anonymous enough in all cases and if not then it should at least be shared to some other institutes or to the reviewers perhaps.

bgovern8 karma

Why is it so difficult to find information on what a typical case of COVID is like? My wife and I came down with it earlier this week, and it has been extremely difficult to find information about what we can expect as low risk infectees. Every article seems to focus on worst case scenarios, and what 'could' happen instead of what will probably happen, it's really maddening.

lonnib6 karma

Happy cake day!

Every article seems to focus on worst case scenarios, and what 'could' happen instead of what will probably happen, it's really maddening.

I understand the frustration. I also had it. The thing is the symptoms have often been described (fever, loss of smell/taste, ...) but aside from that there has been apparently so many different severity levels of the disease that it's a tough question.

Also, one of my guesses is that you want people to be informed of what a severe case is so they make sure to gt to a hospital.

CunningLinguistt7 karma

[deleted]

lonnib6 karma

I previously answered this here and here

CunningLinguistt2 karma

[deleted]

lonnib2 karma

You're very welcome :)

Bearcano6 karma

Lonni Besançon, did your family found Besançon France? If so, thank you for such a delightful place.

lonnib9 karma

Hahaha thanks for this amazing question.

No one in family has lived in Besançon, but I visited once for a ski trip :)

Hyndis6 karma

Why is it that we're 8 months in and we still don't have any baseline studies for what percentage of the total population has been already exposed and recovered?

People who feel sick enough to go in for testing is only a sample of people who feel sick enough to go in for testing. This cannot be extrapolated to the general population. So what percentage of the general population has already encountered the illness?

Without knowing how many people are sick there's no way to know the actual morality rate.

The WHO recently said that 780 million people may have already contracted COVID19, the overwhelming majority of which recovered just fine without medical attention: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/10/05/920453483/10-of-global-population-may-have-contracted-the-coronavirus-who-says

lonnib3 karma

So what percentage of the general population has already encountered the illness?

We can only have estimates of this, which are more or less reliable based on the availability of testing and the measures taken by the government or the mathematical model used. And I guess that answers your first question, there are so many different implementation of a response that a one-fit-all measure/model would not work as its assumption would be violated in almost all countries.

nakedrickjames6 karma

Greetings, thank you for doing this! I'm wondering what your take on Ivermectin is. From what I can tell, there has been a lot of promising data, but thus far no really solid RCTs have been conducted (to my knowledge), at least here in the US. Is this something we're (potentially) really missing out on, or has there been any research done to suggest that it's *not* effective, nor worth looking into for SARS-CoV2?

lonnib4 karma

Hi and thanks for the question.

Unfortunately, none of us are MDs. Upvoting your question though in the hope that an MD would weigh in on that

jacquesrabbit5 karma

Does lockdown and quarantine work?

lonnib11 karma

A complicated question, because you would have to define what "work" means. But I think I have answered it recently in a twitter thread here

TL;DR: the only country not implementing a lockdown is Sweden and they have done really bad in terms of economy and death rate for COVID, much worse than their neighbouring countries (and you can't compare to all other countries as the nordic countries are very different in demogaphy and behaviour, and I explain that in the thread too).

This article helps answering the question on an economic point of view, especially towards the end "Countries that were unable to control their outbreaks have tended to suffer the most economic pain"

StinkinFinger5 karma

Will you be taking the first round of vaccines or wait a bit?

lonnib4 karma

I don't think it's up to me. I guess the first round will be given to people who need it the most and are in contact with COVID19 patients

iwrd4 karma

Hey there, thanks for doing this AMA!

I’m studying media and communications and want to write my thesis in part about transparency and trust around information about covid disseminated in the media.

I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about how these studies (particularly those which demonstrate flaws or conflicts of interest) are represented in the media?

There is a dynamic in health communications in which the scientists produce facts which media producers and journalists represent in comprehensible terms for audiences, who are encouraged to trust in both institutions and act according to medical expertise. This dynamic relies on trust in media and medicine, and i think it is evident during this pandemic that trust in both is eroding—as your paper shows, with good reason.

What do you think the role of the media is in disseminating this kind of information to the public? And how in this context do science and the media work together to breed distrust and information fatigue?

I know these are questions you could write a whole seperate paper about (and i might do just that) but i’d love to hear your thoughts :)

lonnib5 karma

Hi!

Fascinating topic! Super happy to read about this.

Corentin started answering you about this. We have some raw data about this in the OP, but I'd be happy to explain this more to you if you need by email or DM or anything. Lemme know if that's the case :).

iwrd1 karma

thanks, I may take you up on that offer a bit down the road, haven’t finalised my area yet! We’ve got an Australian-Swedish academic affinity, i did my undergrad in Sydney and am now studying in Lund :)

lonnib1 karma

Hello fellow Australian-Swedish researcher :)

mrchristian0013 karma

Hi,

Simon from #GenR here. My question was about addressing the end part of the publishing workflow you describe, where the news media are abusing preprints and using them as a more solid basis of scientific knowledge that should be the case.

What measures can be taken to improve the use of science in news media?

Is an idea of extending a version open peer review to news media and the use of science literature and data by journalists a idea worth pursuing?

VictorVenema5 karma

Not on the AMA team, but I have a blog post on this. From 2013, before preprints were hot, but we already had blogs, mailing lists, op-eds and press releases and conferences made before the paper was finished.

Peer review is not a perfect filter with reliable science coming out. It gives a paper some initial credibility. With science opening up we will get more cases where a journalist will feel his readers are interested in a finding before it is officially published. Journalists and scientists should show restraint and be very careful in communicating how credible the science is. But it is impossible to require them to wait for peer review in every case. If only because also the media is opening up and cannot gate keep. http://variable-variability.blogspot.com/2013/04/value-peer-review-science-press.html

lonnib3 karma

Interesting blog post, thanks :)

lonnib2 karma

Is an idea of extending a version open peer review to news media and the use of science literature and data by journalists a idea worth pursuing?

I thought about this often. The questions would then be who is responsible for this then?

I often tend to think that scientists themselves should fact-check every news article or citation of their work. But we are already overloaded in the work we have, so I don't know. It's a difficult question.

Eventually news network are called out on their behaviour if they exaggerate things, but it's not enough.

However, your question and the preprint hopefully start discussions and reflexion that I would argue should happen in the scientific community. Would love to have a zoom-coffee over that :).

Zkennedy1003 karma

from what you know, what is the likelihood of covid transmission through surfaces? can the virus be transmitted through food, touching things in public, etc. or is constantly sanitizing surfaces pointless?

lonnib2 karma

Hi and thanks for the questions.

None of us are specialised in this domain so it's hard to say. I would refer you to what the WHO or CDC say about COVID transmission.

mxzrxp3 karma

[removed]

lonnib3 karma

Vaccines work if a specific % of the population takes it. This is why measles has started to reappear. Take a look at the wikipedia page on vaccination, it's quite well done.

tolman8r3 karma

It seems to me that this is bad trends in scientific journals and reporting exacerbated by concerns related to COVID. Do you believe this is just an extension of current trends, or something different? Perhaps more importantly, how do we turn the tide?

lonnib3 karma

Do you believe this is just an extension of current trends

I think so.

Perhaps more importantly, how do we turn the tide?

I want to think that having this AMA, and all these conversations around our findings is the way to turn things around. Am I naive? Perhaps! But hey, I'd rather try than do nothing :).

lordlockwood633 karma

I have signed up to a year long vaccine study. My question is this. How can any vaccine be offered for release before 2021 if studies take this long? Would it not be correct to complete all studies as required in previous vaccines?

lonnib4 karma

How can any vaccine be offered for release before 2021 if studies take this long?

Maybe some studies were started earlier or the protocol included a shorter follow-up of participants.

Would it not be correct to complete all studies as required in previous vaccines?

I guess it would be, but a longer study does not imply that it would be more thorough or informing more.

motorbit3 karma

how much of a placebo are paper masks and scarfs? isnt it about time to at least strongly suggest to wear more suitable masks like fp2 masks?

lonnib3 karma

Disclaimer not an MD or a scientist working on this.

FP2 masks protect the most for sure but regular surgical masks already help a lot. There's many CDC reports on the fact that they do and are enough for a daily use :).

motorbit3 karma

hm, in my country at least there was no conclusive evidence from infection rates before and after making "comunity masks" mandatory... i understand the theory that they can prevent drop infection, but how much is that a risk from someone not snorting anyhow? they do not do anything against aresols.

i am very frustrated. infection rates are rising, the only answer is to do the next lockdown and to blame "deniers" on the media. i dont see ppl without the masks anymore and i have not in a long time. so where are all them deniers that are to be blamed? to me this doesnt add up

of course. i have no education in this field and so i cant really tell what is true. but it seems to me that this is a matter of politicans being incapable of revising their past decissions and adjust for reality because this would mean admiting a mistake. costs probably too. living in a country with some remnants of a social system, even having the official suggestion that fp2 masks should be worn would mean that the state had to compensate many people for the costs of them. to my calculations in my country of ~100m people this would mean about 1-2bn€/month. i think this is the real reason. saving airlines is expenisve enough i guess.

again, maybe its me who cant judge the situation right, but i really whish there where other answers but blaming and lockdowns.

lonnib4 karma

hm, in my country at least there was no conclusive evidence from infection rates before and after making "comunity masks" mandatory... i understand the theory that they can prevent drop infection, but how much is that a risk from someone not snorting anyhow? they do not do anything against aresols.

First absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Second, considering the many factors that play a role in the spread of a virus, I am not sure anyone could make a study to show that it works on a country level while taking into account all the confounding factors.

Third, although not substantial, since airline companies have made masks compulsory, there is no report of major infection through travelling in planes while there were before. Sure they also have a good ventilation system... but still...

I can understand the frustration, but although you don't see people not wearing mask does not mean that people do wear them or that they are careful. We had in France for instance thousands of people striking against a 2nd lockdown without masks...

It's a complicated problem with no obvious solution yet, masks and lockdown do work out for now and we have to stick to that. With cooperative populations we can only handle this better.

drunknixon3 karma

How do masks help in situation like for example, dining outside? If people just take them off to eat, doesn’t that eliminate the whole purpose of wearing them in the first place?

lonnib6 karma

Thanks for the question.

First of all, none of us are specialised in this topic, but I have read quite a lot about it.

Well masks do help when you wear them all the time, let's clear that first. I made a thread on twitter about this in French, but all sources are in English so you can read there

As for removing the mask inside, yes it does reduce the efficiency of course, but I guess politicians' take on it is that at least you don't spread germs while moving and if the restaurant is efficiently aired it would be ok... Not sure about this, but I guess it's better than no mask at all... It's hard to know and I don't think we have scientific evidence that it works better, although I can understand part of the logic I guess

jannaface2 karma

Hello and thanks for all your time spent on this. Any thoughts as to whether the company/companies who develop vaccine(s) for COVID-19 will decide to share their “recipe” (so to speak) so other companies can help mass produce instead of putting a patent on it for profit?

lonnib4 karma

Hi and thanks for the questions.

None of us are specialised in this domain so it's hard to say. We can only hope so, but I think it was already done in the past (though can't find a source now)

SmarkieMark2 karma

Any comment on how incredibly bad the IHME projections were for about the first two months of its existence? Specificly how they tried to use fairly simple curve-fitting instead of SEIR methodology.

There were much much better models available, but unfortunately they got a huge amount of media coverage for much too long for much too long for their model that perpetually forecasted ZERO CASES a few weeks out from each update, while the creators defended their model and not give proper qualifications to lay-people. Their graphics were slick and gave people false hope of a definite "peak" with a steep decline after then.

lonnib2 karma

Any comment on how incredibly bad the IHME projections were for about the first two months of its existence? Specificly how they tried to use fairly simple curve-fitting instead of SEIR methodology.

I did not personally follow what they have done so I can't commit much...

But, to be honest I would argue that anyone on the side of "it won't be that bad" has eventually led to more relaxed behaviours and ultimately more cases. But it's all hard times for everyone and I would not blame anyone personally except if they use pseudo-science as science knowingly.

St0p_beforeYouHurt2 karma

Hi everyone, I'm wondering about the interaction between conspiracy theories/misinformation and research.

For example, trump saying Hydroxichloroquine being effective against COVID. It took months if I remember correctly before its use was proved to detrimental.

In the fast-paced media spotlight of today, how long do these claims linger around in academic research? Is research still being conducted on this?

lonnib6 karma

Very interesting question, thanks!

I am not sure that the conspiracy theories/misinformation actually do drive research too much. I would tend to say, opinion here, not fact, that most scientists would then refer to the methodologically-approved studies to explain that a specific piece of information (which is untrue) cannot be backed up by scientific facts.

Looking back at this pandemic, I have spent, along with many others, months debunking all the lies around HCQ and the studies done on it. And we still have to do it. However, I don't think that these theories still drive researchers to conduct more studies per se.

OldSamVimes2 karma

Why are we only hearing about increases in cases and not the decrease in mortality rate in the media?

Is someone keeping track of suicides and mental health issues associated with 'Fighting Covid'?

lonnib2 karma

Why are we only hearing about increases in cases and not the decrease in mortality rate in the media?

I heard way more about how COVID was not dangerous in the media than I heard about how dangerous it is... Your statement on this is just as good as mine, which on the pyramid of strength of evidence is not much.

Is someone keeping track of suicides and mental health issues associated with 'Fighting Covid'?

There is always data on this, why wouldn't we have it now?

OldSamVimes3 karma

I realize there's always data on the numbers of suicides, but I'm not sure if they also track main contributing factors. I guess it can be hard to determine after the case, but some collateral information from family could determine if the suicide was from longstanding issues with depression and anxiety that existed before Covid, or was a result of loss of business, employment, or purpose associated with lockdowns.

lonnib3 karma

To see if it's COVID or lockdown related you can "just" look at the excess in suicide during these periods when compared to the average of the 10 years before.

phylosopher142 karma

Can we automate the process of fact checking the information about COVID out there? This might be anything from evaluating the trustworthiness of medical information on blogs/Twitter/other social media to evaluating the relative accuracy of preprints before they go through peer review. What sort of manual processes could benefit from software automation and machine learning?

lonnib2 karma

There are already some automated process through plugins that you can install that tell you if a website is usually reliable... is that enough? Not really.

I am not sure how much of this can be automated. I have worked on automated moderation before (for gory content, you can check out this AMA) and TBF I am not sure how we could do this.

All the preprints for instance about COVID19 get an additional screening process to make sure that they are not harmful. Doesn't make them harmless either, and doesn't replace peer-review per se.

What kind of solution were you thinking about?

Golden_Week2 karma

Do your findings support the notion that cautious acceptance, or even non-acceptance in the absence of the ability to accept-but-verify, of research is warranted?

lonnib2 karma

I'm not sure our findings are related to these notions in anyway as we only tackle the lack of transparency in research papers on COVID19

zizirosa2 karma

someone dies from “complications” of Covid versus died from Covid? I’m not a doctor, just a curious human. 🙂

lonnib4 karma

To avoid the debate, look at the excess of deaths in countries despite a lockdown that prevented a lot of COVID deaths and flu deaths. Clear data. People die from COVID. A lot!

kriskringle191 karma

From what I have read from the inventor of the PCR test himself (and doesn't get a single mention from mainstream news) is that the PCR tests are not to be trusted when the number of cycles ran exceeds 20, because the test looks for characteristics of the virus and amplifies them in an exponential way. The more cycles , the less the results should be trusted because of the number of false positives. Why then, does the FDA or CDC ( or whoever decides how they are run ) have labs running PCR tests at 35-40 cycles? Lab techs have spoken out about the association between high cycle numbers and false positives, yet the labs continue running them with high cycle numbers. Us it because the FDA can't agree on the right threshold for virus detection? The lack of reporting on this is creating confusion, and creates a space for conspiracy to grow. The conspiracy theory now is that labs are being forced to run high cycle rates BECAUSE they result in false positives, therefore causing fear and a resulting "need" for additional lockdowns.

lonnib1 karma

I don't exactly know why and this again calls, as we argue, for more transparency.

I understand your concerns about conspiracy theories, totally! However, one things that conspiracy-theory believers seem to not get is that no government benefits from a lockdown, in any way.

MrPurpleGiraffe48721 karma

[deleted]

lonnib1 karma

In which picture?

TheAdlerian1 karma

I think that's great.

I have high level science training in my field and can see how "science" is used for marketing, propaganda, and profit, when it is in fake dubious or fake.

What do you believe you will find if covid research is made transparent?

lonnib2 karma

Hi and thanks!

I don't think we would "find" more about the research itself, but it would have allowed us to distinguish for instance between a paper not really peer-reviewed in one day in a journal held by the authors, having the data would have helped collaboration internationally perhaps and avoid The Lancet/Surgisphere issue

DoAFlip221 karma

Thanks for this AMA! It’s been a difficult year for misinformation and you’re really doing god’s work here.

A couple questions: Is it necessary for me to be wearing proper surgical masks? Or are simple fabric ones good enough?

90% effective vaccine sounds made up. Is that a true statistic or is it just out of their ass?

Until we have a vaccine, is there any other potential treatment for covid?

lonnib3 karma

Thanks for this AMA! It’s been a difficult year for misinformation and you’re really doing god’s work here.

Hi and thanks a lot for saying so. We all really appreciate :).

A couple questions: Is it necessary for me to be wearing proper surgical masks? Or are simple fabric ones good enough?

None of us are specialised in this but:

  • Any mask is better than no mask at all I would tend to argue.

  • some fabric ones have been approved in different countries

The vaccine has been addressed here

Until we have a vaccine, is there any other potential treatment for covid?

Not that I know of... but then again none of us are MDs.

Powderstones1 karma

Is there any truth to the rumors that hospitals are making extra commissions from labeling deaths as covid deaths? You’ll hear extremes that someone was eaten by a shark but if they test positive for covid it’s labeled as a covid death.

Is any of this true at all?

lonnib4 karma

Hi!

We previously addressed this here.

Any take on this issue that seems extreme is, I would say, more likely to be false than true :).

ljutiN1 karma

Is this virus as fatal as people say it is?

lonnib1 karma

I'll allow myself an answer with more questions:

who are "people" and what do they say?

I trust official numbers on fatality rates :)

kattannus1 karma

When will a vaccine be available?

lonnib2 karma

Hi!

None of us are MD or working on the trials that are currently happening. "Very soon I hope" is the only answer I could give you

rolacl1 karma

Thanks for the AMA. I have been puzzled about the information on the use of masks. I don’t understand how such a simple and common sense piece of information was not understood at the beginning of the pandemic.

Using masks seems like the most obvious and simple action to help prevent the spread of a respiratory virus. Several countries in Asia did it and their results are outstanding.

What happened to the rest of the world that people didn’t understand this obvious fact.

Politics of course played a big part in some places, mainly the USA, but in many other countries mask usage was adopted late and after unnecessary debate. In my country, Costa Rica, the mask mandates came late in june or july and there was no political debate about it.

I guess my question is what happened that prevented the most significant piece of information during a pandemic to be understood in time worldwide. ?

lonnib8 karma

Hi and thanks for the question

I guess my question is what happened that prevented the most significant piece of information during a pandemic to be understood in time worldwide. ?

Well I guess that conspiracy theories happened, but not only that I suppose. TBF, I'm also puzzled at the lack of understanding of this and to see that people can deny its effectiveness is crazy. TBF again, the success in Asia is not only due to masks, let's be clear, but several CDC reports have shown the efficiency of masks.

I tend to recall, however, that in some countries, probably to avoid laypeople stealing masks where they are most needed (in hospitals) officials said that masks would not help when everyone wanted them and were crying out about it... after a while they said that masks would help and then people started crying about about the fact that they had to wear a mask... this definitely happened in France... maybe elsewhere and that somehow fueled the lack of understanding and conspiracy theories ?

jajajajaj1 karma

So do you think people are just being shady or selfish, or is this largely on the name of protecting people's personal health information? I'm not a scientist, but I've supported some from an IT perspective, and I mean transparency would be easy as heck if it weren't for all these patients.

lonnib2 karma

There are many other fields outside of the medical field that still don't share data, so I don't think it's this. There are several things that scientists face for transparency. Personal info is one, but also fear that the data will be used to publish before (but that's not a valid fear), fear that the data will be scritinized too much and findings invalidated (also not a valid fear, cause reviewers would spot it and help correct the manuscript)...

It's just that it's still not the norm, which is sad really. If it was, all these fears would be swept away immediately as non rational :)

Foxy02016YT1 karma

Why have you chosen to do gods work out here?

lonnib3 karma

Was it intended to be a "/s" question? :)

Foxy02016YT3 karma

Yes, thank you guys for all you’ve been doing

lonnib2 karma

Thanks :)

AnuZLeakage1 karma

My grandmother use to say :"opinions are like anus, everybody got his own" and regarding the covid situation every body gives their opinions like they know exactly what happen! No matter on what background they have! What make you think that you know better than a Didier Roult or a Li-meng Yan or a Trump ?

lonnib6 karma

My grandmother use to say :"opinions are like anus, everybody got his own"

I say the same thing often.

What make you think that you know better than a Didier Roult or a Li-meng Yan or a Trump ?

Well that would depend. What does know better mean? I certainly don't know more about microbiology than Raoult, but I certainly know better than him how to run studies. And his couple of scientific frauds since 2006 (and his ban from submission to Science) are a good proof that we should perhaps not listen to him.

As for Trump, in science in general it is not hard to see that he has made a fool of himself whenever talking about anything scientific.

What qualifies me then? My PhD which I have obtained through peer-reviewing. On Open Science I have written a lot before and on statistics we have researchers in medical stats as part of the author team... that seems to me like more qualification that Trump alone would ever get for instance.

Edit: also please note that nothing in the preprint is an opinion. We give numbers and state scientifically-backed-up facts.

improveyourfuture1 karma

Can you give the hard science on what 'herd immunity's in America would entail? I've seen claims on Reddit but want to hear something verifiable.

lonnib1 karma

I am not sure of what it would be and it's really not my field. But I can point you to the John Snow Memo and The Lancet (https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32153-X) paper explaining why natural herd immunity (i.e., without vaccination) is not a thing.

YoloPucky1 karma

Hey, thanks for your time on the AMA. I know a lot of questions about the vaccine have already been asked. But say a vaccine is confirmed to protect against COVID-19, is there a chance that there exists a long term effect on humans, using this vaccine, that is even worse than COVID-19 itself? And in case it does (which I believe, since no test can cover all possible outcomes and thus cannot prove the absence of this kind of effect) is this risk for the COVID-19 vaccine higher than for common vaccines because of the shorter authorisation procedure? Without being selfish, would it not be better to wait until, let's say a year after the release, before you take the vaccine yourself (if you can afford it i.e. if you are currently not at high risk) to see how the real outcome is?

lonnib2 karma

Hi and thanks for the question. None of us are MDs so we can't say for sure anything about vaccines.

is there a chance that there exists a long term effect on humans, using this vaccine, that is even worse than COVID-19 itself

Risk 0 is never a thing. But to answer all of your questions thoroughly I guess that the risk of long term effects with COVID is probably higher than with the vaccine. So waiting would not be an answer, because if everyone did then the vaccine would have no effect.

is this risk for the COVID-19 vaccine higher than for common vaccines because of the shorter authorisation procedure?

Perhaps it is. I don't think anyone can dismiss this point, but also think about how thorough the testing is and how everyone scrutinises any COVID-19 related data, trial etc... this can possibly compensate for the shorter period :).

anons-a-moose1 karma

Why is this all Obama’s fault?

lonnib1 karma

Thank you Obama!

Hooweezar1 karma

Why are the media and the governing bodies pushing so hard on this disease when we’ve now seen the true impact and the lack of lethality behind it, yet we are still being pushed with heavier and heavier restrictions on a disease with a 99% survival rate?

lonnib9 karma

Because:

  • 1/ even 0.1% fatality rate would be a huge impact

  • 2/ what about the rate of people who need ICU beds or would die ? Giving them a ICU bed reduces potentially the fatality rate of COVID19 but increases the fatality of other diseases that people not infected by COVID but in needs of ICU have.

  • 3/ With restrictions, the number of cases and deaths is still alarming, imagine without

  • 4/ What about the long term consequences of having COVID? What if you died in 2 years and not now because of it?

WeakEmu81 karma

We never saw the predicted ICU overload, so #2 is questionable.

Why not isolate the at-risk, instead of everyone?

It seems the focus is on a single metric (mortality), with no nuance.

lonnib25 karma

We never saw the predicted ICU overload, so #2 is questionable.

False! It's been observed in many countries. Italy, France, Switzerland etc... please fact check.

Why not isolate the at-risk, instead of everyone?

You would need to isolat all at-risk people + their families and that would still not solve the issues with hospital being overwhelmed. Not only at-risk people end up in the hospital.

It seems the focus is on a single metric (mortality), with no nuance.

Quite the contrary, it focuses on death, number of cases, hospital load and its impact, unknown long term effects of an unknown disease...

Sash00 karma

  • 1/ even 0.1% fatality rate would be a huge impact

Impact on what? I hate to be crude, but I am tired of people glancing over the huge age dependence of the fatality rate. It's disingenuous to not acknowledge it.

lonnib3 karma

0.1% * 6.5 billion people.

I hate to be crude, but I am tired of people glancing over the huge age dependence of the fatality rate. It's disingenuous to not acknowledge it.

It's disingenuous to pretend that we don't consider age as a factor. But that does not solve the issue. Do you consider that more old people dying is better than everyone dying the same? What does it change? Should the total amount of casualties be 1 million let's say, does it matter who these 1 million people were?

And again, point 2, 3, and 4 are also to be considered.

Sash01 karma

Do you consider that more old people dying is better than everyone dying the same?

Are you completely unaware of concepts such as quality adjusted life years?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality-adjusted_life_year

If you really want me to answer your question, then YES. Anything else is antisocial and inhumane.

lonnib2 karma

Are you completely unaware of concepts such as quality adjusted life years?

I am not but thank you for assuming, yet again disingenuously, something.

Well I guess that's where I draw a line, I don't have the power, will or knowledge to give a value on a life, so I consider all deaths as deaths and they make sad all the same. If you think that you can give different values to different lives, then I would urge you please to not get involved in politics or science.

Gipsy071 karma

When they say the vaccine is 90% effective, do they only consider only the effect it has on the Virus without considering the long term effects to the body or is it taken into consideration? If it is, how is long term effects determined without studying the vaccine for a long period of time.

lonnib3 karma

About any comments on the vaccine, I would refer you to this question and u/Clem_stat's answer :)

maybelle1800 karma

Hi AMA, thanks for doing this.

I'm an American behavioral scientist living in Switzerland. You're probably aware that Switzerland is currently a disaster area, with some of the highest rates in Europe and a pathetic response to the second wave. A couple weeks ago the federal government stopped reporting numbers of new cases over the weekends, instead giving a summary of the previous 72 hours on Monday afternoons. It makes it very hard to eyeball /interpret trends and is frustrating on a daily basis.

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/switzerland/

Can you think of any legitimate reason why they are doing this instead of reporting the number of new cases every day? They claim it's because it's only useful to look at seven day averages and that the daily numbers can be misleading, but that seems to be a lame excuse. Thoughts?

lonnib3 karma

I'm an American behavioral scientist living in Switzerland. You're probably aware that Switzerland is currently a disaster area, with some of the highest rates in Europe and a pathetic response to the second wave. A couple weeks ago the federal government stopped reporting numbers of new cases over the weekends, instead giving a summary of the previous 72 hours on Monday afternoons. It makes it very hard to eyeball /interpret trends and is frustrating on a daily basis.

I live in Sweden where updates are only on Tuesdays and Fridays so...

Can you think of any legitimate reason why they are doing this instead of reporting the number of new cases every day? They claim it's because it's only useful to look at seven day averages and that the daily numbers can be misleading, but that seems to be a lame excuse. Thoughts?

I guess there is some truth to the numbers being more reliable. Sweden says that it's because they need to wait a couple of days to have reliable figures... the thing is, daily figures are more often than not under-estimated and we know that, so I don't know why they would do this... Perhaps our statisticians can shed some more light on this. u/crsgls and u/Clem_stat

Magister1995-1 karma

Do you see COVID-19 misinformation spreading from top down or vice-versa?

Is the whole idea of letting the virus spread without halt, to achieve herd immunity, as absurd as it sounds?

lonnib3 karma

Do you see COVID-19 misinformation spreading from top down or vice-versa?

My take is that it's coming a bit from everywhere TBH.

Is the whole idea of letting the virus spread without halt, to achieve herd immunity, as absurd as it sounds?

Well the John Snow Memo and this Lancet article32153-X/fulltext) pretty much rule this out. No herd immunity without a vaccine. No historic example of this or any evidence.