Ethical and sensible dissemination of information during the COVID-19 pandemic


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Tag(s): Legacy post
Topic(s): Clinical Trials & Studies Research Ethics

by Farid Rahimi, Ph.D. ELS and Amin Talebi Bezmin Abadi, Ph.D.

The first reports of “pneumonia of unknown cause” emerged from the Wuhan City, China, three months ago. A viral causative agent, SARS-CoV-2 (2019-nCoV or H-CoV-19), was identified and attributed to the pneumonia, which was later dubbed COVID-19. The ensuing endemic outbreak of COVID-19 was proclaimed as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization subsequently. During this relatively short period of four months, thousands of scientific papers and even more news articles have been published on open sources and the general media, disseminating the collective knowledge about COVID-19. Ethical standards, which underpin the scientific publishing, research integrity, peer review, and transparency, still underlie the responsible dissemination of the scientific knowledge about the presently growing health problem caused by the pandemic. Rapid but unscrutinized publishing of articles on COVID-19, however, may be a two-edged sword. Though fast publications inform the scientific and medical communities and the public about COVID-19, divulging ungrounded predictions or unproven findings may adversely heighten the possibility of generating unnecessary/unwarranted panic or confusion among the public or even among the scientific or medical community. Thus, post-publication scrutiny by the consumers of the COVID 19 literature becomes paramount. We propose that stricter peer-review measures must be applied to all submitted scientific papers covering various aspects of the pandemic, the virus, and the disease. Ethical standards should be extended to all stakeholders, including authors, journalists, funders, affiliates, editors, publishers, general media, relevant institutions, and health authorities globally.

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