The novel coronavirus was engineered in a lab using HIV. Stem cells are a potent weapon against the new pandemic. People with blood type A are more susceptible to COVID-19.
None of these “discoveries” have been proven. But all have been widely disseminated.
They’re examples of what many scientists are beginning to fear is an erosion of traditional safeguards against bad science under the pressing need for answers to the wave of sickness sweeping the globe.
“We are getting a firehose of research-based data coming out at us, because we need it,” said Rees Kassen, a University of Ottawa scientist who has just published a paper with the World Economic Forum about the concern.
“That’s good, but it has to come with strong caveats.”
The speed and volume of research into the novel coronavirus is unprecedented. During the 2003 SARS crisis, a French study found that 93 per cent of papers about the virus were published after the epidemic subsided.
Not this time. LitCovid, a hub for papers on COVID-19, says more than 1,600 on the topic were published last week alone.
But many are so-called “preprints” — untested research hot out of the lab.
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Normally, a scientist with new findings writes them up and submits them to a journal. An editorial committee looks for problems, checks the findings against other research and puts them through the kind of scrutiny that leads to stronger work.
Peer review, however, takes months or even years. COVID-19 isn’t giving us that much time.
Increasingly, medical scientists have turned to preprint sites, where work is posted within days.