What the heck happened to John Ioannidis? - 2021-03-29
I've been meaning to write this post for months now, but have hesitated. Up until yesterday, that hesitation has always led to my abandoning the post and choosing a different topic. The reason for my hesitation is that the topic of this post happens to be a scientist whom, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I had long admired and whom, as a result of his publications, statements, and activities during the pandemic, I no longer do. I am, of course, referring to John Ioannidis, who first made a splash over 15 years ago, when he published what remains his most famous article, "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False", leading me (and others) to point out how cranks and quacks have misused and abused Ioannidis' work to "prove" that science is so unreliable that their quackery or antivaccine pseudoscience should be taken seriously. As you've probably already guessed, it was all nonsense. Over the years, Prof. Ioannidis' work has inspired posts by nearly all of the bloggers who've been regulars here at SBM , including topics discussed in his papers such as:
Don't get me wrong here. I don't always agree with Ioannidis; for instance, I think he did exaggerate how often research is "wrong" and, in addition, took major issue with his argument that the NIH is so conservative that only the very "safest" projects are funded and that the "brave maverick scientists" who see "bolts out of the blue" to make great leaps in science tend not to be NIH funded. I'll return to this particular paper at the end of the post, because now, in retrospect, I see it as a harbinger of Ioannidis' activities during the COVID-19 pandemic that I missed at the time. Had I been more attuned now to what I had noticed then, it might have led me to be less surprised by Ioannidis' behavior, in which he's consistently downplayed the deadliness of COVID-19 and, in doing so, engaged in the same sort of scientific sloppiness that he had become known for skewering in other investigators. I'll enumerate in more depth in a moment, but before I do please indulge me as I do a little exercise.
A little exercise, for perspective on COVID-19