A Prophet of Scientific Rigor—and a Covid Contrarian

In Wired

Collage of text medical symbols and portrait of Iannidid

John Ioannidis laid bare the foibles of medical science. Now medical science is returning the favor.

From my article for Wired, posted May 1, 2020

I’M STARING AT a small sea of frowning faces on Zoom. “I’m really angry about this,” says one of them. These are medical students at Columbia University, and I’m speaking to a class on communicating medicine. They’ve been friendly up until now, but that all changed when I brought up Stanford University epidemiologist John Ioannidis.

Ioannidis has been a fixture in medical-school curricula for years, achieving something akin to hero status. He’s one of the most-cited scientists of any type in the world, earning acclaim by dedicating his career to telling the fields of biomedicine (and others, too) how little trust one should have in their published research. But almost literally overnight Ioannidis has himself become a case study in how to screw up a medical study. And not just any study: This one concludes that Covid-19 isn’t all that dangerous….Read more

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2 thoughts on “A Prophet of Scientific Rigor—and a Covid Contrarian

  1. It really seems there are two perceived options only (in the USA), either you’re not leaving your home at all or you believe there’s not much to worry about. From your article I would guess Mr. Ioannides has published his informed opinion rather than tried to come up with numbers where there are none or few to be found or trusted. It’s unfortunate that the debate seems so emotional that voicing any opinion means you’re instantly assigned to one group or the other.
    In the Netherlands we had an ‘intelligent lockdown’ as our prime minister put it, which basically meant we would follow the lead of a group of scientists at the RIVM and accept that they didn’t have all the answers either. This meant that a lot of people stayed at home initially, but from the beginning of June children up to 12 years old could attend school again (only the children and personnel were allowed inside, and any symptoms meant you were to stay at home).
    We’re not (yet) required to wear masks except in public transport because the combination of working from home as much as possible and social distancing worked quite well until the summer holidays. In the past few weeks, the infection rate has gone up. In this article: https://www.rivm.nl/en/news/number-of-covid-19-infections-continues-to-increase – the increase is shown to be largest among people in their 20s and 30s and mainly in the west, which is more densely populated with cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague.
    I think the main challenge for people everywhere will be to adhere to measures like social distancing even if they’re not concerned about their own health, so that people who do view themselves as vulnerable to this particular virus can feel safe going to a shop once in a while.

    • storyadmin says:

      Thanks for sharing what’s going on in the Netherlands, very interesting. I’m not sure it’s the same where you are, but in the U.S. the issue of whether or not to adhere to safe guidelines has become very political, with liberals (along with the vast majority of scientists) pushing to maintain tight precautions, and conservatives mostly pushing to do away with precautions. Ioannidis let popular conservative TV hosts use his voice to reinforce that anti-precaution stance, and that’s a big reason people were upset.

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