Has the Pandemic Triggered a ‘Paperdemic’? Towards an Assessment of Diagnostic Indicators for COVID-19

International Journal of Pathogen Research 6 (2):28-49 (2021)
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Abstract

This paper is a preliminary step towards the assessment of an alarming widespread belief that victims of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 include the quality and accuracy of scientific publications about it. Our initial results suggest that this belief cannot be readily ignored, denied, dismissed or refuted, since some genuine supporting evidence can be forwarded for it. This evidence includes an obvious increase in retractions of papers published about the COVID-19 pandemic plus an extra-ordinary phenomenon of inconsistency that we report herein. In fact, we provide a novel method for validating any purported set of the four most prominent indicators of diagnostic testing (Sensitivity, Specificity, Positive Predictive Value, and Negative Predictive Value), by observing that these indicators constitute three rather than four independent quantities. This observation has virtually been unheard of in the open medical literature, and hence researchers have not taken it into consideration. We define two functions, which serve as consistency criteria, since each of them checks consistency for any set of four numerical values (naturally belonging to the interval [0.0,1.0]) claimed to be the four basic diagnostic indicators. Most of the data we came across in various international journals met our criteria for consistency, but in a few cases, there were obvious unexplained blunders. We explored the same consistency problem for some diagnostic data published in 2020 concerning the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and observed that the afore-mentioned unexplained blunders tended to be on the rise. A systematic extensive statistical assessment of this presumed tendency is warranted.

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