Who qualifies as a 'real expert' when it comes to coronavirus?

Irving News Comments
April 1, 2020
Reproduced with Permission

A very critically important issue that needs far far more official and public discussion and debate can be found in the Times Higher Education article copied in full at the end. Whether for narcissistic, or self-delusional, or devious reasons, major crises such as the one we are currently in re the Coronavirus pandemic always "justify" such non-experts to come out of the woodwork and "instruct" the rest of us as to what to think and what should be done about it.

But precisely because they are addressing scientific or medical issues that they have no genuine academically grounded expertise in , such "advice" does horrendous damage to our public policies and even death and disease to the public who pay the ultimate price.

There are multiple different kinds of scientists, each with academic credentials for that sub-field of science only -- chemists are not biochemists, and neither are biologists (unless they specifically studied those sub-fields as well). One should not ask a chemist how to perform brain surgery -- or when the lives of human beings begin to exist!

And physicians are not scientists at all -- they take totally different academic course work and get totally different degrees; physicians get M.D. degrees and simply apply what science has objectively documented for them; scientists get Ph.D. degrees and supply such objectively documentation through their experimentation. Thus one should not ask a physician to comment on the latest nuclear radiation situation.

Nor can physicians with one academic medical specialty know the details of a different medical specialty they have never studied. Thus one should not ask a physician whose specialty is in bone fractures to comment on how to perform kidney transplants Nor is a scientist a physician -- for the same reasons.

Nor is the ignorant politically correct press/media helpful at all. Long past time to do something about such dangerous subterfuge, as the article below demonstrates. Indeed, academics should face more scrutiny and accountability by officials, the public and the media as well, and be legally required to "stay in their lanes" -- or face fines and jail time as their duly deserved consequences. We also need far more output from our Sec. of Education as to how to clamp down FAST on this insidious InfoWar situation throughout our educational systems!

Please take a moment to read the following Times Higher Education article.


Times Higher Education
March 31, 2020
by David Matthews

Who qualifies as a 'real expert' when it comes to coronavirus?

Once-obscure academic experts have been thrust into the limelight by the coronavirus pandemic, appearing alongside world leaders such as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson at critical press conferences, amassing armies of Twitter followers and popping up as talking heads on TV.

But such sudden arrivals on the international stage can beg a number of questions: which academics count as experts on the pandemic? Should they "stay in their lane" of expertise, or is it OK to swerve out of it to warn society about coronavirus?

Such inter-academic tension broke into the open on 20 March when Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard University who has emerged as one of the most trusted voices on the outbreak, called fellow Harvard epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding a "charlatan exploiting a tenuous connection for self-promotion".


A crisis is best managed through reasoned analysis from experts

Dr Feigl-Ding, whose Twitter following has rocketed from about 2,000 in mid-January to approaching 140,000 now (a slightly greater reach, at the time of writing, than Professor Lipsitch), delivers a daily stream of coronavirus tweets – largely stark warnings about the pandemic's severity.

But his expertise is in nutrition, not infectious disease, meaning that he makes "no original contributions to analysis of this epidemic& is laser-focused on self-promotion", pointed out Professor Lipsitch on Twitter.

Though for Dr Feigl-Ding, who also focuses on public health policy, you do not need to be a specialist to raise the alarm. "Anyone who has a good sense of data, an engineer, a statistician, a business analyst, could easily have identified this epidemic early on as very troubling," he told Times Higher Education .

He pointed to Michael Burry, the hedge fund manager and physician profiled in the film The Big Short , who saw the 2008 financial crash coming owing to an obsessive interrogation of the underlying numbers.

After the World Health Organisation declined to declare Covid-19 a public health emergency on 23 January, Dr Feigl-Ding started tweeting his alarm − "blowing the whistle", as he put it.

Before Covid-19 took hold globally, he took flak for his tone (the author of one critical article has since acknowledged that more alarm back in January would have been a good thing, Dr Feigl-Ding pointed out). "HOLY MOTHER OF GOD," he tweeted at the end of January, warning that the new coronavirus had a "thermonuclear pandemic level" of infectiousness (the paper he referenced was not peer-reviewed, it later revised its infection estimate down, and Dr Feigl-Ding has since deleted the tweet).

But with the outbreak now a full-blown pandemic, he feels vindicated, with journalists now asking why he wasn't listened to. "I regret a few typos," he said. "I don't regret the core message." When, in January, relatives in Shanghai were warning of a killer disease in Wuhan, his Twitter reach was so limited, he said, that "whispering" or using the sometimes "pedantic" or "couched" language of academics was not an option. "You have to wake them [the public] up somehow," he added.

Although the whistle is now well and truly blown on Covid-19, Dr Feigl-Ding will continue tweeting, as many followers are hard-core Trump supporters who distrust mainstream media warnings. "Now, more than ever, they trust me, because they saw I called it right," he said.

This might come as a surprise, given that in 2018 he ran – unsuccessfully − for office as a Democrat. Should scientists disclose their political affiliations when warning about coronavirus? Dr Feigl-Ding does not on his Twitter bio; he told THE he thought it only necessary for incumbents or those currently running.

Another politically inclined scientist who has shot to prominence during the pandemic is Dena Grayson, a self-described expert on Ebola, coronavirus and pandemics, who has amassed more than a quarter of a million Twitter followers and made multiple TV appearances, some denouncing the Trump administration. The president "can't spin death" she told Sky News in March.

She previously ran as a Democrat for congressional office in Florida, but since 15 March, has removed this disclosure from her Twitter biography, now only describing her scientific credentials. Dr Grayson does have a biotechnology background and has published on virus protection as a private consultant, but a THE request for evidence of her coronavirus expertise was turned down.

Twitter has been verifying – adding a blue tick – accounts "providing credible updates" on coronavirus and is "working with global public health authorities to identify experts". But a Twitter spokesman declined to give THE further details.

Fiona Fox, chief executive of the Science Media Centre, a UK body distributing expert comment to journalists, said the organisation had told its network of academics, inundated by coronavirus media enquiries, to "stay in your lane".

The centre has a database of about 2,500 academic experts – the majority of whom are professors − picked on the basis of publication record and peer recommendations, and then tagged by which field they are qualified to speak on, she explained.

The centre sends out a daily list of coronavirus topics but will weed out answers from academics who have veered out of their field: a disease modeller commenting on whether supermarkets should open at special hours for health workers, for example.

Ms Fox believes this approach, since the centre's inception in 2002, has "taken a lot of general celebrity scientists off the air" in the UK and replaced them with genuine specialists.

But for Dr Feigl-Ding, what he called the "credentialism" of the "stay in your lane" approach is "really dangerous" − as it would have meant many early warning signs of the pandemic would have been missed.

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