Thank you Dr. Joseph for a wonderful article (“Reclaiming hope and optimism from the pandemic grind,” May-June 2022). It came at a time that is most needed in my life, when I started to doubt my ability and self-worth. Your inspirational and motivational talk was dearly missed by some of us at the Dalhousie University.
Ms. Taiwo previously worked under the leadership of Ivan Joseph.
Preprints can cause problems
This article is superficial, flawed, and incomplete, and amounts to a puff piece (“The rise of preprints,” May-June 2022). In fact, two preprints from Canada caused massive problems — one that incorrectly claimed cardiac complications from vaccination from a group at the University of Ottawa, which was later retracted but not before the right-wing press absorbed it into canon, and another vastly underestimated the protection of vaccines, and it too was later retracted. Both errors would have been caught in peer review. Neither claim, when made correctly, mattered. Only the errors made them sensational, and those led to public health problems.
As for the PhD-Dr. Polka’s paper in PLOS One, it has major flaws, including selection of preprints (they are often posted on multiple servers, but they chose one), data excluded from the initial analysis, and the MAJOR fact that most preprints are posted AFTER peer review, making a comparison between preprint and paper more like a comparison around copyediting revisions.
Reporting like this by non-experts is why we need expert intermediaries at the front-end of science. Journalists are not equipped — no matter what they may think — to understand complex statistics, highly nuanced and specialized scientific findings, and so forth. They also have different incentives and deadlines.
I could go on about the problems caused by preprints (ivermectin ring any bells), and the public health problems — including generalized confusion and exhaustion — they have caused. It is also equally likely that preprints may confound scientific progress by confusing the scientific record, making it unclear what a “claim” actually is, and increasing the burden on researchers throughout the data-gathering, report-writing, and publication processes.
Please do better next time. There are people tracking this carefully whose expertise you could have accessed if your goal hadn’t been a puff piece.
Mr. Anderson is a past president of the Society for Scholarly Publishing, founder of the “Scholarly Kitchen,” and founder of “The Geyser,” a watchdog newsletter in the information space.