Stanford Professor of Medicine John Ioannidis has written a paper for BMJ Open Research exloring why the pro-lockdown message of the John Snow Memorandum became accepted as the consensus view among senior scientists while the ‘focused protection’ message of the Great Barrington Declaration was seen as the view of a fringe minority, even though the key signatories of the GMB and the key signatories of the JSM had a comparable number of citations in scientific journals. His conclusion: the authors of the JSM had more followers on social media and were uninhibited about using that reach to smear their opponents. Sarah Knapton, the Science Editor of the Telegraph, has more.
Anti-lockdown scientists were viewed as having ‘fringe’ ideas because those calling for draconian restrictions had more followers on social media, a study has shown.
Professor John Ioannidis of Stanford University, an expert in data science and the reliability of research, studied the expertise of authors who signed the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) compared with signatories of the John Snow Memorandum.
The GBD called for vulnerable people to be shielded while allowing immunity to build up in the rest of the public to avoid huge costs to society, education and public health.
In contrast, the John Snow Memorandum (JSM) argued that such a policy of herd immunity was unethical.
Prof Ioannidis said he wanted to examine the “prevailing narrative” that the Great Barrington Declaration was a minority view among experts, and found that “Twitter firepower” had helped shape the conversation.
In an article published in BMJ Open Research, he found that both letters were authored by very influential experts, but that the John Snow Memorandum authors had a far greater reach on social media, which made it appear that their view had more support.
By November 2021, just four key signatories of the GBD had more than 50,000 Twitter followers, compared with 13 of the key authors of the JSM.
Prof Ioannidis concluded: “Both the Great Barrington Declaration and John Snow Memorandum include many stellar scientists, but JSM has far more powerful social media presence and this may have shaped the impression that it is the dominant narrative.
“GBD is clearly not a fringe minority report compared with JSM, as many social media and media allude.
“If knowledgeable scientists can have a strong social media presence, massively communicating accurate information to followers, the effect may be highly beneficial.
“Conversely, if scientists themselves are affected by the same problems (misinformation, animosity, loss of decorum and disinhibition, among others) when they communicate in social media, the consequences may be negative.”
Prof Ioannidis also said signatories of the JSM had contributed to the vilification of authors of the GBD through their tweets and op-eds.
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