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Table of Contents
LETTER TO EDITOR
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 881-882

The COVID-19 pandemic: An opportunity to reflect on our scientific approach


Physician, Public Health Commentator, and Chief Editor, The Indian Practitioner, Mumbai, India

Date of Submission04-Oct-2020
Date of Decision15-Oct-2020
Date of Acceptance15-Oct-2020
Date of Web Publication25-Dec-2020

Correspondence Address:
Soham Dinabandu Bhaduri
505, Carnation, Motiram Gardens, Kher Section, Ambernath (E), Thane - 421 501, Maharashtra
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/crst.crst_310_20

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How to cite this article:
Bhaduri SD. The COVID-19 pandemic: An opportunity to reflect on our scientific approach. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2020;3:881-2

How to cite this URL:
Bhaduri SD. The COVID-19 pandemic: An opportunity to reflect on our scientific approach. Cancer Res Stat Treat [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Apr 21];3:881-2. Available from: https://www.crstonline.com/text.asp?2020/3/4/881/304982



Roy and Mathew's comment[1] on the flurry of bad science during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is well received. There can possibly be no room for disagreement that a crisis only warrants good science to be upheld with greater fervor, and that quantity and speed should not supersede quality. My comments will largely be additive to theirs, which I will make in the form of two broad points.

An individual's health stock during normalcy determines his/her ability to cope with stresses. Faced with an onslaught of articles during the pandemic, it was the leading journals with robust technical and human resources that were able to satisfactorily modify their processes to expedite the handling of large volumes of submissions. Similarly, it is the robustness of our scientific approach during normalcy that determines how science shapes in the times of crisis. Such crises are times of extraordinary demand, and a deficient scientific approach, which may otherwise suffice during normalcy, caves in during such times and begets bad science. This is applicable not only to the academia, the producers, and the stewards of science but also to other influential sections which make important stakeholders, given their role in promoting, disseminating, or implementing science. It is reflective of a deficient scientific approach when governments during pandemics fail to act nimbly according to the available scientific evidence or attempt to muzzle genuine research when it is politically discomforting. What could more aptly demonstrate a deficient scientific approach than the promotion of alternative remedies having little scientific backing for mass use during the pandemic by none other than many state governments themselves?[2] It reflects poorly on science when we ignore the important aspects of the sociology of pandemics and cherish a purely biomedical approach, or throw around concepts such as herd immunity indiscriminately, resulting in their even more indiscriminate public consumption.

The pandemic should therefore be an opportunity for collective reflection about how we could inculcate a robust scientific approach, particularly among those sections that strongly influence science and its practice. For governments, this could mean learning to set aside considerations of political expediency when science holds the key to legions of lives. For journalists, it could be as simple as sticking to basic journalistic ethics pertaining to reporting of science. And for laymen, it would involve deciding what criteria to employ when deciding who is a credible “expert.” Good science can only survive in an ecosystem of good scientific approach.

Moreover, ways to better science need not always be the conventional ones; this could be another pertinent takeaway from the pandemic. For instance, one may claim that publication ethics have been more of a casualty than research ethics during the COVID-19 pandemic.[3] This is attributable in part to expedited peer reviewing, which often left many gaping holes. There could be promise in exploring a greater role for preprints and public critical appraisals to complement peer review in the biomedical circle.[4] Certain downsides of traditional publishing, such as the reviewer bias, could thereby be minimized or averted. It is obvious that such benefits will be set to magnify during a future pandemic, when journals see the next onslaught of submissions. Certainly, any such mainstreaming of preprints has to explicitly recognize their primary role as being that of promoting more research, rather than giving inputs for crucial decisions. Mainstreaming can also nudge the systemic strengthening of the preprint scrutiny process and help inform and discipline public and media behavior with respect to preprint publications, which have frequently played mischief. Such unconventional ways merit our deliberation.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Roy AM, Mathew A. Bad science in the time of COVID-19. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2020;3:434-6.  Back to cited text no. 1
  [Full text]  
2.
Bhaduri SD. COVID-19: Bad Science is Common and no 'Middle-Path' for Traditional Medicine. M3 India; 2020. Available from: https://www.m3india.in/contents/editor_pick/140666/covid-19-bad-science-is-common-and-no-middle-path. [Last cited on 2020 Oct 04].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Agoramoorthy G, Hsu MJ, Shieh P. Queries on the COVID-19 quick publishing ethics. Bioethics 2020;34:633-4.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Vlasschaert C, Topf JM, Hiremath S. Proliferation of papers and preprints during the Coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic: progress or problems with peer review? Adv Chronic Kidney Dis 2020;27:418-26.  Back to cited text no. 4
    




 

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