“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Many have criticized preprint servers because they allow the dissemination of data and information that has not been peer-reviewed.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….”