Misinformation in COVID-19 Media and Literature, with an Emphasis on Open Data Policies
Authors: Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva
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Misinformation in the COVID-19 era may stem from social media, preprints, elite peer-reviewed journals, or predatory journals. In part, this has been caused by an infodemic of information. One extreme case was the retraction of a pseudo-scientific paper on 5G claiming that 5G induces COVID-19 in skin cells, published in a PubMed-indexed journal, Journal of Biological Regulators & Homeostatic Agents. In the COVID-19 era, social media has also catalyzed the spread of misinformation and false conspiracy theories about non-existent or unproven risks. COVID-19-related misinformation might also arise from poorly vetted literature, one reason being the continued failure of implementing an open data (OD) policy. This is a core reason for two high-profile retractions of COVID-19-related literature in leading medical journals, The Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine. Despite those retractions, those journals still do not mandate an OD policy, which, unlike an optional one, could instill greater rigor through heightened scrutiny of data sets, and thus fortified scientific integrity and public trust. If data is erroneous, it can negatively impact health policies. Thus, journals publishing original research on COVID-19 need to rethink their OD policies, and critically assess whether they are contributing to the medical misinformation stream, or not, and what this might imply to their reputation.