Doctor and scientists are now talking OPENLY about the end of scientific journals. Too slow, a flawed process, not relevant, and various other phrases I have heard, to justify the abandonment of the usual scientific protocols of fact-finding.

Accordingly, authors have turned to pre-print servers to disseminate their work. The most prominent is medRxiv, which is sponsored by Yale University and led by Harlan Krumholz. It is part of the YODA project; YODA stands for Yale (University) Open Data Access. 

Krumholz is a former journal editor, who has written savagely about the severe limitations of peer review journals. In his famed 2015 paper, “The End of Journals,” he compellingly argued that journals no longer play an important role in the dissemination of medical information, because they are slow, expensive, limited, unreliable, focused on the wrong metric, powerful, parochial, static, and dependent on a flawed business model.

He has some slight reservations then! Thing is, he’s not wrong!

Since the mid-twentieth century, practitioners have relied on data and knowledge published in the peer reviewed medical literature. But the peer review process is not designed for the rapid dissemination of critical information during a time of crisis. Peer review is a deliberate, slow and imperfect process.

Typically, a paper that is submitted to a journal is vetted to see if it meets consensus standards and values. That’s a hairy process in itself. Don’t try to publish anything radical! Your peers will reject it! It’s mob rule of a sort. Certainly, it amounts to widespread censorship of the non-status quo.

Authors may be given a chance to revise the paper, and the revisions are often reviewed again by the external experts. Under optimal circumstances, the peer review process takes 4-6 weeks. But all too often, the process is tortured; it can take 4-6 months, or even longer.

But the point is that editors have covered their a**, if there is major controversy. No courage or sticking your neck out in pursuit of truth there! (that’s left to irritating sores like me, that chip away at the status quo!)

Milton Packer MD, writing for MedPageToday, remarks that peer review is too slow under normal circumstances anyway. But when there is a crisis, we need faster dissemination of knowledge.2

Well, no problem with that, say I. BUT THERE IS NO REAL SCIENCE TO DISSEMINATE! That’s the problem. With COVID-19 it’s hooey; opinion; official propaganda; and massaging of figures for outcomes. The science is noticeably missing. 

We all know the figures are being fudged by counting everything as a COVID death, no matter how obscure. In my view, there is NO pandemic. The figures clearly show that. But with strokes, heart attacks, flu, drunkenness all being put down as COVID deaths, it’s impossible to do any science (OK, I was kidding about the drunkenness! But they are just as much kidding about the scale of the problem).

Even when there is clearly knowledge emerging, the standard narrative ignores it. Observant, well-qualified doctors on the front line have made it abundantly clear that ventilators KILL. Yet health facilities all over the US are being incentivized to put patients on a ventilator: they get a reward of $39,000 ex gratia payment for every patient on a ventilator.

Of course the patient typically dies. But the official “figures” start to look better and better! And no, I’m not being cynical. 88% of patients on a ventilator will die. That’s almost 90%!1 It’s practically murder.

So, as Harlan Krumholz asks, is the dissemination of non-peer reviewed information problematic? 

For many years, many of us recognized that the peer review process was uneven at best. An author’s ability to have his/her work published in any given journal often represented the luck of the draw, being highly dependent on the preferences of the handling editor and the choice of reviewers. 

Prestigious journals have published awful papers and rejected good ones. It’s a bit like publishing a novel. Most publishers cannot spot a winner (fact). J K Rowling, celebrated author of the Harry Potter series, was rejected by dozens of potential publishers before getting lucky with Bloomsbury. She was told she would never earn money as a children’s writer. In fact she sold over 500 millions books, earning $7.7 billion (her cut is likely to be in excess of $1 billion).

J K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series

Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen, authors of the Chicken Soup for The Soul series were rejected by 140 agencies and publishers, being told, “Anthologies don’t sell.” In fact they sold 125 million anthologies.

Thing is, being “peer reviewed” is not always honest in the meaning of the term. Many fee-based journals will publish any work as being “peer reviewed”, as long as authors are willing to pay.

As a result, even before COVID-19, declaring that a study was published in a peer review journal was no longer an effective identifier of quality work. Of course, publishing work in a top-tier journal still had meaning, but all too often, only other authors appreciated the distinction of presenting their findings in a first-rate journal.

So is Krumholz’s medRxiv here to save the day? Or a scam smuggled in under the flag of crisis times?

In many cases, quality standards have been relaxed. Normally, top-tier journals would only prioritize studies if they had meaningful numbers of patients, included adequate controls, relied on clinically important metrics, and performed analyses that used rigorous methods. Now, the same journals often rush papers with serious methodological limitations through the process. The papers were still peer reviewed, but reviewers have been instructed to make their decisions quickly, and many reviewers sense that (at least with respect to COVID-19 papers) they should not be too picky.

This in turn has resulted in opportunistic writers and researchers hijacking the process. They have figured that some journals were prepared to publish even second rate work, as long as it was related to COVID-19. All they had to do was put COVID-19 in the title and ask for an expedited review.

Accordingly, some authors have bypassed the whole process of verification and integrity. If peer review is broken, why not simply submit your work to medRxiv, and hope that the news goes directly to Twitter? It takes far less time and effort, and the impact is considerable.

The result that is emerging is that so-called science has failed us in our most important need. It’s not just flaky authors, cashing in. It’s officialdom lying, fudging and covering up, till it has reached the point where it is very hard for decent people to figure out the truth.

I want the truth. I NEED the truth; we all do. I’m not here to sell vaccines or revive decades-old failed meds. I have no interest in anything but the truth. It’s just that times have made it difficult to access what we really need to know.

It’s disappointing too. In the great pandemics of the past—Bubonic plague and The 1918 Spanish Flu—we didn’t know much. Now we can potentially learn from this and be better prepared. But, if you haven’t got real science, you haven’t got any chance of real understanding.

Stay Safe,

Prof. Keith Scott-Mumby

The Official Alternative Doctor

References:

1. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-22/almost-9-in-10-covid-19-patients-on-ventilators-died-in-study

2. https://www.medpagetoday.com/blogs/revolutionandrevelation/86465