The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the biggest mobilization of scientific effort in a generation. Scientists from fields as diverse as immunology and computer science quickly pivoted to studying drivers of the epidemic and potential countermeasures. More than 54,000 articles relating to the SARS-CoV-2 virus have been published in academic journals in the biomedical and life sciences to date.
This scientific surge is astounding and inspiring, but it has produced some ethical dilemmas. The urgency of the crisis has led to a proliferation of studies, some of which short-circuit the most rigorous scientific standards. Results often get disseminated to the public before they’ve been reviewed by experts, which can lead to a situation in which doctors, politicians and others advocate unproven cures.
BALANCING SPEED AND RIGOR
The gold standard for scientific learning is the randomized, controlled trial (RCT), in which a group of participants is randomly assigned to receive either the