One of Britain’s top medical journals, the British Medical Journal, is facing backlash from scientists and doctors for publishing a series of articles authored by members of the self-appointed, pro-restriction Independent SAGE group. Joe Pinkstone of the Telegraph has the story.
The British Medical Journal is one of the world’s most prestigious publications but has been accused of being partisan, stoking the culture war and driving a wedge through the scientific community.
Throughout the pandemic the [Independent SAGE] group held regular briefings on YouTube, were often seen on television, and gained a cult-like following of avid fans on social media as a result of their hardline stance.
For the past two and a half years, they have advocated for various interventions and criticised many policy decisions to remove Covid restrictions. At one time a zero-Covid advocacy group, they are now widely viewed as pro-mask and only too willing to reintroduce lockdown-like restrictions…
There have been accusations levelled at the BMJ of only representing one side of the story, and neglecting to give other sides of the argument.
Dr Jake Dunning, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Oxford and a consultant to the UKHSA, said the BMJ’s affiliation with Independent Sage was “disappointing but not surprising”.
“BMJ has its own agenda and favourites; like iSage it’s not really independent or impartial, and that predates Covid by a long way,” he added.
“Always felt it suffers from a personality crisis, unsure whether it’s a scientific journal or a medical newspaper.”
Critics of the BMJ say that coming to a scientific consensus is never going to be an easy feat, but by platforming the most outspoken members of one side of the debate without riposte only acts to inflame what are already deeply-ingrained divisions.
Kamran Abbasi, the editor of the BMJ, wrote an article where he said the freshly-commissioned batch of editorials will “explore how information was misused, abused, and manipulated to feed an ideologically driven ‘infodemic’”.
In it, he writes that the series will describe both successes and failures of the UK response, but says its conclusion is clear.
“The U.K.’s response should have been much better… While debate continues about how best to compare the resilience of national health systems to shocks such as pandemics, there is little doubt that the UK’s response fell far short of its potential,” the article states.
A number of doctors and scientists have criticised the move. Dr. Michael Absoud, a consultant in children’s neurodisability at Evelina London Children’s Hospital, told the Telegraph: “It is a shame that the BMJ is exacerbating our adversarial political system with articles dressed up as science.”
Dr. Tim Colbourn, a Professor of Global Health Systems, Epidemiology and Evaluation at UCL, said: “[It is] probably impossible given entrenched sides but would be good for science if a journal tried to bring together scientists with different opinions on important topics like this to try to move toward scientific consensus in commissioned pieces.” He also wondered if the BMJ would be publishing “articles jointly co-authored by people with publicly differing views”.
Dr. Alasdair Munro, who works in paediatric infectious diseases at the University of Southampton, called the one-sidedness of the BMJ’s publications “a true waste of an opportunity for an objective and unbiased appraisal”.
“I am beyond disappointed that the BMJ, which I have long respected, would commission members of a political activist group to do such a series,” he added.
Referring to one of the editorials, in which eight members of Independent Sage look at how COVID-19 policy affected children and schools, he questioned why no paediatricians were involved and noted the analysis was “littered with errors”.
Independent SAGE notoriously pushed for schools to remain closed in 2020 until Covid was eradicated. In the new article members claim the September 2020 return to school “may have accelerated community spread”. They also criticise the Government that the use of face masks by schoolchildren was “undervalued and de-emphasised”.
Worth reading in full.