BMJ news: 'Taking down online scientific misinformation isn't necessary, as most people don't believe it, says Royal Society' (9)

27 January, 2022

Neil, thank you for sharing this news report in the BMJ, arising from The Royal Society. [ ]

I have been wondering what the respected Society actually wants to achieve with its comment.

When wrong, misleading, unproven information is detected in a publication by researchers/authors, the publisher promptly retracts it, in the interest of maintaining the purity and reliability of global literature, on which researchers, authors, policy makers and practitioners depend to deliver evidence informed management. Can it therefore be right to allow misinformation / disinformation especially about covid-19 pandemic to remain in the global literature, confusing both the literate and illiterate alike?.

Infact, leaving misinformation to remain in accepted global literature, unwittingly and indirectly, over time may give it undeserved acceptance and the promoters of such misinformation may use the non retraction as justification of the falsehood. More dangerous is that such misinformation may be cited in otherwise genuine and accurate scientific reports and used in management of cases.

It may be that some practitioners who are versed in English Language and knowledgeable in appraisal of health information can identify such misinformation, but I doubt that majority of practitioners around the world, without such advantages (limited use of English and poor appraisal skills) can recognize misinformation that easily.

Misinformation once identified should be retracted from the global literature. Let’s not leave the reliability of the global scientific literature and health information to chance. The risk to public health is too high.

Joseph Ana.

HIFA profile: Joseph Ana is the Lead Consultant and Trainer at the Africa Centre for Clinical Governance Research and Patient Safety in Calabar, Nigeria, established by HRI Global (former HRIWA). In 2015 he won the NMA Award of Excellence for establishing 12-Pillar Clinical Governance, Quality and Safety initiative in Nigeria. He has been the pioneer Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) National Committee on Clinical Governance and Research since 2012. He is also Chairman of the Quality & Performance subcommittee of the Technical Working Group for the implementation of the Nigeria Health Act. He is a pioneer Trustee-Director of the NMF (Nigerian Medical Forum) which took the BMJ to West Africa in 1995. He is particularly interested in strengthening health systems for quality and safety in LMICs. He has written Five books on the 12-Pillar Clinical Governance for LMICs, including a TOOLS for Implementation. He established the Department of Clinical Governance, Servicom & e-health in the Cross River State Ministry of Health, Nigeria in 2007. Website: Joseph is a member of the HIFA Steering Group and the HIFA working group on Community Health Workers.

Website: Joseph is a member of the HIFA Steering Group and the HIFA working group on Community Health Workers.

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