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BMJ: Social Media Intentionally Skewed Narrative

Written by John P Ioannidis:

Abstract Objective The Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) and the John Snow Memorandum (JSM), each signed by numerous scientists, have proposed hotly debated strategies for handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The current analysis aimed to examine whether the prevailing narrative that GBD is a minority view among experts is true. Methods The citation impact and social media presence of the key GBD and JSM signatories was assessed. Citation data were obtained from Scopus using a previously validated composite citation indicator that incorporated also coauthorship and author order and ranking was against all authors in the same Science-Metrix scientific field with at least five full papers. Random samples of scientists from the longer lists of signatories were also assessed. The number of Twitter followers for all key signatories was also tracked. 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.

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