Preprint Servers have Repeatedly Censored our Work on COVID-19 Policy
MedRxiv, SSRN have repeatedly taken down or blocked preprints on articles critical of the CDC, masks, or vaccine mandates
Just out on the preprint server Zenodo, comes an analysis of every preprint that has come out of my laboratory at UC San Francisco. In it, we reveal a startling pattern of censorship and inconsistent standards from pre-print servers. Preprint servers appear to be playing politics.
Specifically MedRxiv and SSRN have been reluctant to post articles critical of the CDC, mask and vaccine mandates, and the Biden administration’s health care policies. Preprint server are not supposed to be journals— they are not supposed to reject articles merely because the people running them disagree with the arguments within— and yet, the pattern below suggests they are inserting their biases into their practices. Ironically, two of them refused to post this article as well! Likely independent investigation is needed. Let’s take a look.
These are the articles that we submitted and the stated reason for rejection.
As you can see, 38% of our submissions have been rejected or removed. Yet, these rejected articles have been eventually published and been downloaded massively. In fact, “The median number of downloads for a rejected/removed article that was later accepted by a different server was 4142 vs 300 for articles submitted and accepted without rejection or removal.”
Moreover, the stated reasons for removal, are, pardon my french, bullshit. Not one of these articles has received any substantive rebuttal. All are consistent with scientific practices and norms, and similar papers not critical of the CDC or Biden administration have been accepted.
The preprint server flags articles that “might contradict widely accepted public-health advice.” But, public health advice has been often based on small, biased studies. For example, the CDC’s recommendation for mask mandates initially stemmed from a study of 2 masked hairdressers. Later, a Cochrane review of multiple randomized studies concluded that the evidence for face masks for COVID protection was uncertain. Preprint servers are essentially banning criticism of flawed governmental agencies.
In some cases, preprint servers denied our paper, while accepting papers with weaker methods— a hallmark of hypocrisy. Our article on Statistical Methodological errors was deemed “not a systematic evaluation with reproducible methodology.” Yet, a number of articles accepted by medRXiv appear to have similar methodology. For example, in one posted medRxiv article, a study sample included 9 COVID-positive people “who they [community healthcare workers] knew,” which is biased methodology and unlikely to be reproducible.
Ultimately, our article was posted on SSRN, where it has received almost 40,000 downloads to date, and has led to widespread criticism of the CDC, which MedRxiv perhaps did not want. Our paper is rock solid.
Preprint servers are being used to censor views critical of the CDC, and policy errors made by the Democratic administration. The basis for denial or rejection is not consistent with other articles, nor the principles and rules of the server. If only papers that praise the CDC are acceptable by preprint servers, than the role of science as a check and balance on incorrect policy is subverted. I am very concerned by what is going on at these servers. Read the articles, and see for yourself.
Here is the full article
And, here are links to all the preprints
40,213 views 7,959 downloads
COVID-19 vaccines: history of the pandemic’s great scientific success & flawed policy implementation
3,072 views 1,028 downloads
417,488 views 90,252 downloads
283 views 19 downloads
2,454 views 239 downloads
277 views 52 downloads
502 views 435 downloads
2,148 views 1,797 downloads
Analysis of tweets discussing the risk of Mpox among children and young people in school (May-Oct 2022): Public health experts on Twitter consistently exaggerated risks and infrequently reported accurate information
1,364 views 920 downloads
659 views 92 downloads
510 views 133 downloads
1,306 views 202 downloads
1,090 views 361 downloads