I have heard a lot on social media lately about how “scientific researchers are concealing information from the general public” that the scientific community are “colluding to inflate the number of those infected with the coronavirus to embarrass the president”, or that they are just lying about the results. These people say that there is a “lack of transparency” within the scientific community and that everything they say should be doubted. All of this comes from the lack of understanding of how research studies are reviewed before its publication and why peer review is so important.
For science to work there has to be transparency but sometimes you have to wait for the results to be evaluated and peer review. The general public has a problem understanding the last two, especially peer review. When a study is first presented it must be gone over by experts before publishing. This is not, as conspiracy nuts like to suggest, to protect the “Science Oligarchy” but to catch any missed errors in the methodology, data collecting, margin of error, and conclusion. A good study is one in which the data suggest something not quite as expected. If your research supports your hypothesis too strongly, one has to doubt the legitimacy of the methodology, data collection, or conclusion. This is why evaluation and peer review are important. When millions of dollars can sometimes ride on the correct results, it can be devastating to a group if there are mistakes in their study. Sometimes, and the news media like to report on these, some research groups have faked data, or cheated in their methodology to get the results they want. They are rare (100s of thousands of studies are done yearly) because most are caught during the review process. Getting caught cheating carries a heavy penalty. Not only do you lose your job, your reputation as a researcher and options for future work in the science field is permanently damaged.
Here are several recent Sars-Cov-2 vaccine studies. all you have to do is find where to look and read them. Oh, and most news media reporters do not have the time nor the technical know-how to figure out what these studies mean. These are the two leading vaccine studies most heard on the news lately. if you follow me you’d know I share the stuff.
For the Oxford-AstraZeneca study, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31604-4/fulltext#seccestitle80
For the NIAID-Moderna study, https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2022483
-A. M. Holmes