Anti-lockdown scientists were viewed as having ‘fringe’ ideas because those calling for draconian restrictions had more followers on social media, a study has shown.
Professor John Ioannidis, of Stanford University, an expert in data science and the reliability of research, studied the expertise of authors who signed the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) compared with signatories of the John Snow Memorandum.
…In an article published in BMJ Open Research, he found that both letters were authored by very influential experts, but that the John Snow Memorandum authors had a far greater reach on social media, which made it appear that their view had more support.
…Prof Ioannidis concluded: “Both the Great Barrington Declaration and John Snow Memorandum include many stellar scientists, but JSM has far more powerful social media presence and this may have shaped the impression that it is the dominant narrative.
Results Among the 47 key GBD signatories, 20, 19 and 21, respectively, were top-cited authors for career impact, recent single-year (2019) impact or either. For comparison, among the 34 key JSM signatories, 11, 14 and 15, respectively, were top cited. Key signatories represented 30 different scientific fields (9 represented in both documents, 17 only in GBD and 4 only in JSM). In a random sample of n=30 scientists among the longer lists of signatories, five in GBD and three in JSM were top cited. By April 2021, only 19/47 key GBD signatories had personal Twitter accounts versus 34/34 of key JSM signatories; 3 key GBD signatories versus 10 key JSM signatories had >50 000 Twitter followers and extraordinary Kardashian K-indices (363–2569). By November 2021, four key GBD signatories versus 13 key JSM signatories had >50 000 Twitter followers.
Conclusions Both GBD and JSM include many stellar scientists, but JSM has far more powerful social media presence and this may have shaped the impression that it is the dominant narrative.