Guest Post – The Covid Infodemic and the Future of the Communication of Science – The Scholarly Kitchen

“The world has gotten pretty opinionated about how scientific communication should be designed, and most of what has been published has fallen into one of two camps:

Camp A) The Covid crisis has torn down the walls of science and cranked the speed dial to 12. Instead of traditional journal publishing which takes months, preprints are exploding, “a global collaboration unlike any in history” is happening in real-time, and an old system is finally getting the overhaul it needed!
Camp B) We are seeing the first true social “infodemic.” Misinformation is everywhere, most of what is out there “isn’t even science,” and governments are cracking down on social media platforms and scientific publishers to dramatically limit the content that makes it online.

Both of these camps are at least partially correct, but few articles address the fact that speed and uncertainty in science are often two sides of the same coin, and getting the benefit of speed without the risk of uncertainty is extremely challenging….

Many of the old systems that have slowed down the pace of science in order to establish relevancy and truth-seeking as it builds from observation to intervention shouldn’t be thrown away in the move towards speed, but rather built into and strengthened via new technologies.”

Assessing Open Access Audio – Full Text View – ClinicalTrials.gov

Abstract:  The medical encounter can be overwhelming in term of the amount of information discussed, its technical nature, and the anxiety it can generate. Easy access to a secure audio recording from any internet enabled device is an available low cost technology that allows patients to “revisit the visit” either alone or sharing with caretakers and family. It has been introduced and tested outside the VA with evidence that it increases patient recall and understanding and may even improve physician performance. Little is known, however, about whether and to what extent these effects lead to better outcomes, such as improved treatment plan adherence and chronic disease self-management. This study is a randomized controlled trial designed ascertain whether easy access to audio recordings of the medical visit improves patients perception that they understand and can manage their own care, and leads to a variety of improved outcomes, such as better blood pressure and diabetes control, and fewer emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

 

Rapid publications risk the integrity of science in the era of COVID-19 | BMC Medicine | Full Text

Abstract:  Background

Preprint manuscripts, rapid publications and opinion pieces have been essential in permitting the lay press and public health authorities to preview data relating to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), including the range of clinical manifestations and the basic epidemiology early on in the pandemic. However, the rapid dissemination of information has highlighted some issues with communication of scientific results and opinions in this time of heightened sensitivity and global concern.

Main text

Rapid publication of COVID-19 literature through expedited review, preprint publications and opinion pieces are important resources for the medical scientific community. Yet the risks of unverified information loom large in times when the healthcare community is desperate for information. Information that has not been properly vetted, or opinion pieces without solid evidence, may be used to influence public health policy decisions. We discuss three examples of unverified information and the consequences in this time of high anxiety surrounding COVID-19.

Conclusions

In an era when information can be widely and swiftly disseminated, it is important to ensure that the scientific community is not an inadvertent source of misinformation. This will require a multimodal approach, with buy-in from editors, publishers, preprint servers, authors and journalists. The landscape of medical publications has changed, and a collaborative approach is required to maintain a high standard of scientific communications.

Rapid publications risk the integrity of science in the era of COVID-19 | BMC Medicine | Full Text

Abstract:  Background

Preprint manuscripts, rapid publications and opinion pieces have been essential in permitting the lay press and public health authorities to preview data relating to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), including the range of clinical manifestations and the basic epidemiology early on in the pandemic. However, the rapid dissemination of information has highlighted some issues with communication of scientific results and opinions in this time of heightened sensitivity and global concern.

Main text

Rapid publication of COVID-19 literature through expedited review, preprint publications and opinion pieces are important resources for the medical scientific community. Yet the risks of unverified information loom large in times when the healthcare community is desperate for information. Information that has not been properly vetted, or opinion pieces without solid evidence, may be used to influence public health policy decisions. We discuss three examples of unverified information and the consequences in this time of high anxiety surrounding COVID-19.

Conclusions

In an era when information can be widely and swiftly disseminated, it is important to ensure that the scientific community is not an inadvertent source of misinformation. This will require a multimodal approach, with buy-in from editors, publishers, preprint servers, authors and journalists. The landscape of medical publications has changed, and a collaborative approach is required to maintain a high standard of scientific communications.

How the coronavirus pandemic could change the way we do research

“Launched in March 2020, the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19), is a resource of over 29,000 scholarly articles, including over 13,000 with full text, from peer-reviewed journals as well as repositories like bioRxiv and medRxiv. The research covers SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, and the coronavirus group. The CORD-19 dataset represents the most extensive machine-readable coronavirus literature collection available for data mining to date. Updated in real time as more research is released, the approach helps facing the rapid acceleration in new coronavirus literature, making it easier for the medical research community to keep up.

This freely available dataset is an initiative from US state and private actors such as Microsoft which “used its literature curation algorithms to find relevant articles and research”, while “nonprofit Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) converted them from web pages and PDFs into a structured format that can be processed by algorithms”. The database is provided to the global research community to apply recent advances in natural language processing and other AI techniques to generate new insights. Stemming from this is the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset Challenge, a call to action to the world’s artificial intelligence experts to develop text and data mining tools that can help the medical community develop answers to high priority scientific questions.

Earlier on, in February 2020, the research-charity Wellcome Trust, called for researchers, journals, scientific societies and funders around the world to ensure the rapid sharing of research data and findings relevant to the coronavirus. In the signed statement, they commit to: …”

‘Better Every Semester’: How Faculty Use Open Educational Resources to Improve Courses | EdSurge News

“Much of the attention that open educational resources have earned focuses on their low cost. After all, a free or inexpensive alternative to a pricey commercial textbook can make a big difference for students at institutions like Salt Lake Community College, who are “mostly not affluent,” Hardy says.

 

But OER advocates think open access course materials hold another kind of promise for students, too. Designed to be flexible and alterable, educators and students can continually test how well they work and improve them as necessary, “ensuring the course materials are better every semester than they were the semester before,” says David Wiley, chief academic officer of Lumen Learning, a company that sells low-cost open textbooks and courseware….”

A Quantitative Portrait of Wikipedia’s High-Tempo Collaborations during the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic

Abstract:  The 2020 coronavirus pandemic was a historic social disruption with significant consequences felt around the globe. Wikipedia is a freely-available, peer-produced encyclopedia with a remarkable ability to create and revise content following current events. Using 973,940 revisions from 134,337 editors to 4,238 articles, this study examines the dynamics of the English Wikipedia’s response to the coronavirus pandemic through the first five months of 2020 as a “quantitative portrait” describing the emergent collaborative behavior at three levels of analysis: article revision, editor contributions, and network dynamics. Across multiple data sources, quantitative methods, and levels of analysis, we find four consistent themes characterizing Wikipedia’s unique large-scale, high-tempo, and temporary online collaborations: external events as drivers of activity, spillovers of activity, complex patterns of editor engagement, and the shadows of the future. In light of increasing concerns about online social platforms’ abilities to govern the conduct and content of their users, we identify implications from Wikipedia’s coronavirus collaborations for improving the resilience of socio-technical systems during a crisis.

 

A Quantitative Portrait of Wikipedia’s High-Tempo Collaborations during the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic

Abstract:  The 2020 coronavirus pandemic was a historic social disruption with significant consequences felt around the globe. Wikipedia is a freely-available, peer-produced encyclopedia with a remarkable ability to create and revise content following current events. Using 973,940 revisions from 134,337 editors to 4,238 articles, this study examines the dynamics of the English Wikipedia’s response to the coronavirus pandemic through the first five months of 2020 as a “quantitative portrait” describing the emergent collaborative behavior at three levels of analysis: article revision, editor contributions, and network dynamics. Across multiple data sources, quantitative methods, and levels of analysis, we find four consistent themes characterizing Wikipedia’s unique large-scale, high-tempo, and temporary online collaborations: external events as drivers of activity, spillovers of activity, complex patterns of editor engagement, and the shadows of the future. In light of increasing concerns about online social platforms’ abilities to govern the conduct and content of their users, we identify implications from Wikipedia’s coronavirus collaborations for improving the resilience of socio-technical systems during a crisis.

 

OpenStax textbook revisions, updates, and improvements – OpenStax

“In the years since OpenStax published its first textbook, our offerings have matured and our platforms have evolved. We’ve done our best to listen to our adopters and work with our authors to develop a balanced updating, improvement, and revision strategy.

OpenStax revises books, creating formal new editions, only when it is pedagogically necessary to do so. The process is extensive and requires significant resources. Between new editions, we make updates and improvements based on errata submissions, suggestions from adopters, ideas from contributors, and specific reviews for diversity and representation. Below I’ll outline the approach to each.

First, a brief overview of our development process: OpenStax textbooks are developed and peer-reviewed by educators to ensure they align to the coverage and sequence of their respective courses, keeping in mind common learning outcomes and points of emphasis from academic communities and discipline organizations. Our development process includes thorough editing, careful review, and detailed quality assurance measures. Then, after a book is published, we begin the process of maintaining and improving it.

And second, as discussed below, the online view of the book — as opposed to the PDF or other formats — is the one we recommend because it is always the most up-to-date, the most accessible, and includes features such as notetaking and highlighting. Also, the OpenStax course cartridges, available for several learning management systems, link directly to the online and most updated version….”

Critical Lessons From Last Week’s Retraction of Two COVID-19 Papers | MedPage Today

“According to an investigative report in The Guardian, Sapan Desai had been previously linked to highly ambitious (and dubious) claims. In 2008, he promoted a “next generation human augmentation device” called Neurodynamics Flow, which he said “can help you achieve what you never thought was possible,” claiming that “with its sophisticated programming, optimal neural induction points, and tried and true results, Neurodynamics Flow allows you to rise to the peak of human evolution.”

It is important to realize that concerns about the existence and validity of the Surgisphere databases surfaced only after the paper on hydroxychloroquine was published. The earlier NEJM paper on inhibitors of the renin-angiotensin system was never criticized, even though Surgisphere was the primary data and analytical source.

Why? The NEJM paper included data from 8,910 patients treated at 169 hospitals across three continents (Asia, Europe and North America), a database that may have seemed credible — even though Surgisphere had no track record of publications. In contrast, the Lancet paper cited data from 96,032 patients treated at 671 hospitals from six continents. It seems that the decision by the authors to include data from Australia and Africa represented a fatal strategic error, since these could be far more easily matched up with public records. When the data from these two regions failed to make sense, the paper unraveled. Conceivably, if the authors had not overreached and if they had merely confined their analysis to three continents, it is likely that the Lancet paper would have survived….

The possibility that fraudulent data would have been accepted — if it had not been for the excessive ambitions of the authors — is distressing beyond words. The implications for medical research are profound….

Many have criticized preprint servers because they allow the dissemination of data and information that has not been peer-reviewed. But can we continue to denigrate papers lacking peer review if the process failed us at this critical time? Some might still argue that peer review was highly effective in the two COVID-19 retractions; it simply occurred following (rather than prior to) publication. However, even the staunchest advocates of journals as gatekeepers must concede that the post-publication examination and analysis can occur whether the information is presented in a top-tier journal or on a preprint server….”