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Malfeasance in COVID Modeling Scenarios — Fantasy Scenarios vs Likely Ones

re: COVID

Real science is never settled, and anyone who has certainty on such things is not qualified to discuss it.

Models are for persuasion. They have their uses. But believing them is for idiots and children.

The Spectator: My Twitter conversation with the chairman of the Sage Covid modelling committee

2021-12-18. Emphasis added.

The latest Sage papers have been published, envisaging anything from 200 to 6,000 deaths a day from Omicron depending on how many more restrictions we’ll get — up to and very much including another lockdown. Earlier today I had an unexpected chance to ask questions of Graham Medley, the chair of the Sage modelling committee. '

He's a professor at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) which last weekend published a study on Omicron with very gloomy scenarios and making the case for more restrictions. But JP Morgan had a close look at this study and spotted something big: all the way through, LSHTM assumes that the Omicron variant is just as deadly as Delta. ‘But evidence from South Africa suggests that Omicron infections are milder,’ JP Morgan pointed out in a note to clients. Adjust for this, it found, and the picture changes dramatically:

“Bed occupancy by Covid-19 patients at the end of January would be 33% of the peak seen in January 2021. This would be manageable without further restrictions.

So JP Morgan had shown that, if you tweak one assumption (on severity) then — suddenly — no need for lockdown. 

Why was this scenario left out? Why would this fairly-important and fairly-basic fact on Omicron modelling not presented by Sage modellers like Professor Medley to ministers — and to the general public? I was thrilled for the chance to speak to him on Twitter. It was kind of him to make the time (he’s still going, as far as I can make out). The Spectator data hub has a page devoted to past Sage modelling vs actual, and I wanted to make sure I was not being unfair to Sage in my selection or presentation of those charts.

The latest Sage paper-drop — the 6,000-deaths-a-day one — refers to ‘scenarios,’ not predictions. Professor Medley emphasises the distinction: saying something could happen is not saying that there's a realistic chance of it happening. But then why do Sage modellers publish some scenarios and not others?

...Revealingly, he seemed to think my question odd: if it's quite plausible that Omicron is mild and doesn't threaten the NHS, what would be the point of including that as a 'scenario'? He seemed to suggest that he has been given a very limited brief, and asked to churn out worse-case scenarios without being asked to comment on how plausible they are.

“We generally model what we are asked to model. There is a dialogue in which policy teams discuss with the modellers what they need to inform their policy.

Might this remit mean leaving out just-as-plausible, quite-important scenarios that would not require lockdown? 

“Decision-makers are generally on only interested in situations where decisions have to be made.

Note how careful he is to stay vague on whether any of the various scenarios in the Sage document are likely or even plausible. What happened to the original system of presenting a ‘reasonable worse-case scenario’ together with a central scenario? And what's the point of modelling if it doesn't say how likely any these scenarios are?

...Professor Robert Dingwall, until recently a JCVI expert, has said that Medley’s candour reveals ‘a fundamental problem of scientific ethics in Sage’ — ie, a hardwired negativity bias.  ‘The unquestioning response to the brief is very like that of SPI-B's behavioural scientists,’ he says and suggests that the Covid inquiry looks into all this.

...

WIND: because it’s all about persuasion, which means getting attention, and therefore supporting their own interests, not yours or anyone elses.

“Scenarios not predictions” sums it up. Something “could” happen? Yes, I could fart gold dust out of my ass any day now. These modelers are unethical turds spewing out garbage to be used by those in power to harm people.

Modelers deliver self-aggrandizing or self-promoting “results” or “studies” are the rule these days*. Moreover, there is no risk management going on here setting the highest probability event against all the positives of new screwing-over the populace with damaging policies to prevent a fantasy scenario.

* Ever wonder why all climate models have failed to predict, and only the 1 in 1000 model (the others quickly being forgotten) that by chance works for a while is touted, before it too fails to predict?

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