Mike Hearn

Do Online Opinion Polls Overestimate Public Support For Covid Restrictions?

by Mike Hearn Recently YouGov announced that 64% of the British public would support mandatory booster vaccinations and another polling firm claimed that 45% would support indefinite home detention for the unvaccinated (i.e., forced vaccination of the entire population). The extreme nature of these claims immediately attracted attention, and not for the first time raised questions about how accurate polling on Covid mandates actually is. In this essay I'm going to explore some of the biases that can affect these types of poll, and in particular pro-social, mode and volunteering biases, which might be leading to inaccurately large pro-mandate responses. There's evidence that polling bias on COVID topics can be enormous. In January researchers in Kenya compared results from an opinion poll asking whether people wore masks to actual observations. They discovered that while 88% of people told the pollsters that they wore masks outside, in reality only 10% of people actually did. Suspicions about mandate polls and YouGov specifically are heightened by the fact that they very explicitly took a position on what people "should" be doing in 2020, using language like "Britons still won't wear masks", "this could prove a particular problem", "we are far behind our neighbours" and most concerning of all - "our partnership with Imperial College". Given widespread awareness of how easy it is to...

Photoshopping, fraud and circular logic in research

by Mike Hearn It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgement of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.Marcia Angell Check out this image from a peer reviewed research paper that supposedly shows skin lesions being treated by a laser: Left: before treatment for keratoses. Right: after they were airbrushed out. (image diff is available here) On being challenged the authors said:  The photograph was taken in the same room with a similar environment; unfortunately the patient wore the same shirt. The journal found this explanation acceptable and forwarded the response to the complainants. It’s becoming clear that science has major difficulties with not only a flood of incorrect and intellectually fraudulent claims, but also literally faked, entirely made up papers with random data, imaginary experiments and photoshopped images in them. Some of these papers are sold by organised gangs to Chinese doctors who need them to get promoted. But others come from really sketchy outfits like (sigh) the National Health Service, to whom we owe the masterpiece seen above. The British Government hasn’t noticed that its doctors are massaging...

Review of Paper Claiming 20% of Infected Are Vulnerable to Reinfection

by Mike Hearn A recent paper in the Lancet claims that one in five people might not get immunity from being infected with COVID. The study is invalid. Although these sorts of problems have been seen before, this is a good opportunity to quickly recall why COVID science is in such dire straits. The research has a straightforward goal: follow a population of Danish people who tested positive in Denmark's first wave, and re-test them during the second wave to see if they became infected a second time. Denmark has a large free PCR testing programme so there is plenty of data to analyse. Out of 11,068 who tested positive in the first wave, 72 also tested positive during the second wave. This fact is used to advocate for vaccination of people who've already had COVID. The obvious problem with this strategy is that false positives can cause apparent reinfection even when no such thing has happened. The paper doesn't mention this possibility until page 7, where the entire topic is dismissed in a single sentence: "Some misclassifications by PCR tests might have occurred; however, the test used is believed to be highly accurate, with a sensitivity of 97·1% and specificity of 99·98%." My curiosity was piqued by this figure because, as I've written about previously, at least as of...

Postcard from France

Postcard from France

Former Google software engineer Mike Hearn has written a 'Postcard From France' for the Daily Sceptic about the almost universal lack of enforcement of Macron's Pass Sanitaire. No vaccine passport? Pas de problème.

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September 2022
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