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WSJ, Jay Bhattacharya: Deceptive Covid Study, Unmasked

re: ethics in medicine
re: Jay Bhattacharya
re: Why Most Published Research Findings Are False
re: How Well do Doctors Understand Probability?
re: How to understand scientific studies (in health and medicine)

Science will limp along less than wholly ruined so long as honest folk like Jay Bhattacharya are willing to speak out, exerting some drag on intellectually bankrupt researchers.

WSJ, Jay Bhattacharya: A Deceptive Covid Study, Unmasked

2022-01-11, by Jay Bhattacharya and Tom Nicholson. Emphasis added.

Duke researchers look at transmission in schools and end up reinforcing their prior assumptions

‘Follow the science,” we keep hearing, but sometimes scientists and the media present findings in a misleading way. Consider a new study by Duke University’s ABC Science Collaborative, conducted in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Researchers examined the effect of a “test to stay” approach to schoolchildren identified as “close contacts” of Covid-positive people. Test to stay excuses these children from quarantining if they test negative for the virus. The study’s primary conclusion was that test to stay is a good way to move away from lengthy quarantine.

That’s reasonable and useful. But the researchers peppered their report with rhetorical sleights of hand aimed at misleading readers into other, less well-founded conclusions that were mostly inevitable products of their own study design. One of their primary conclusions is that “in schools with universal masking, test-to-stay is an effective strategy.” That invites readers to assume that test-to-stay doesn’t work without forced masking. But since they studied no unmasked schools, this conclusion is baseless. An honest report would either have said so or not mentioned masking at all.

Duke’s Press office amplified the unfounded conclusion... media took this press release and added a further layer of falsehood...

True, the ABC researchers found a higher rate of transmission during sports. But that was entirely a product of how the researchers defined Covid “exposure.” Students were counted as exposed only if they were unmasked during the interaction with an infected person. In mask-mandatory schools, that happened only during lunch and sports. If a transmission occurred in a masked classroom, the definition didn’t count it as a close contact. And the study found only three sports-related positives out of 352 tests. When combined with the three lunch-related positives, the six total positives resulted in a mere 1.7% of maskless exposures ending up with a Covid-19-positive contact. 


This isn’t a first for the ABC collaborative and the Duke press office. In July they made a series of bold claims about the efficacy of masking children in schools based on a study that didn’t include an unmasked control group. Scientific communication should limit itself to the communication of science, rather than to the manipulation of human behavior.

WIND: dishonest scientists are ruining science, which is now shot through with the rot of financial incentives, and career advancement/prestige the quid-pro-quo of desired outcomes. Follow the money, and it doesn’t matter if the biases are conscious or not!

This kind of researcher cooking-the-books should be grounds for a lifetime ban on publishing anything ever again. OMG!

Students were counted as exposed only if they were unmasked...

The smart move is to assume every scientific study is false and might be persuasion and biases disguised as science, at least in the realms of anything even mildly controversial. And probably everywhere, since there is almost always a desired finding that leads to further research dollars.

See also: Stanford Medicine: Garbage Studies Masquerading as Science and Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.

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