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Nature attempts to paper over a genuine and reasonable lack of trust in China over COVID-19

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This matters to us because it bears on the fate of science in general, as China becomes a global superpower. Introducing “A special issue on COVID-era research collaboration highlights the benefits to science and society of working across borders, cultures and disciplines,” the editors of Nature tell us,

Analyses of bibliometric data reveal that international collaborations were less common on COVID-19-related papers in 2020 than they were for research on other coronaviruses in previous years. Moreover, as the pandemic has progressed, papers in which the authors are all in the same country have occupied a greater share of the COVID-19 literature. Looking at 2020 as a whole, the rate of international collaboration for COVID-19-related science was similar to that for all recorded research.

Indicators that some international collaboration is waning are evident when looking at data for China and the United States. The fraction of China’s international collaborations that involve US authors has been falling since 2017. Such trends are likely to continue if geopolitical tensions with the United States worsen.

That would be regrettable.

Editorial, “Research collaborations bring big rewards: the world needs more” at Nature (June 16, 2021)


No, it wouldn’t be “regrettable.” Not so long as China cannot be trusted.

The article goes on to identify comparatively piffling examples of co-operation where nothing much was at stake. Nothing like the need for an honest account of the origin of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

These people are not serious. It is reasonable to assume that this is a factor:

“Nature and The Lancet played important roles in enabling, encouraging, and enforcing the false narrative that science evidence indicates Sars-CoV-2 had a natural-spillover origin points and the false narrative that this was the scientific consensus”.

Or as another well-placed observer put it: “The game seems to be for Nature and The Lancet to rush non-peer revised correspondences to set the tone and then delay critical papers and responses.” But why would they do this? This is where things become even murkier. Allegations swirl that it was not down to editorial misjudgement, but something more sinister: a desire to appease China for commercial reasons. The Financial Times revealed four years ago that debt-laden Springer Nature, the German group that publishes Nature, was blocking access in China to hundreds of academic articles mentioning subjects deemed sensitive by Beijing such as Hong Kong, Taiwan or Tibet. China is also spending lavishly around the world to win supremacy in science — which includes becoming the biggest national sponsor of open access journals published by both Springer Nature and Elsevier, owner of The Lancet.

One source estimated that 49 sponsorship agreements between Springer Nature and Chinese institutions were worth at least $10m last year. These deals cover the publishing fees authors would normally pay in such journals, so they smooth the path for Chinese authors while creating a dependency culture. They have worked well for both sides: they offer the publishers access to the surging Chinese market and its well-resourced universities, while offering international recognition and status in return. But we know President Xi Jinping demands compliance with his world view, even from foreign-owned companies — and especially on an issue as sensitive as his nation’s possible role in unleashing a global catastrophe.

Ian Birrell, “Beijing’s useful idiots” at Unherd

By all means, read Birrell’s article, if only to take in his chronicle of the politically inspired nonsense about pangolins, aimed, perhaps, at misdirection:

More re pangolin:

See also:

Why trust in “science” is becoming unwise. In case you wondered: “China is also spending lavishly around the world to win supremacy in science — which includes becoming the biggest national sponsor of open access journals published by both Springer Nature and Elsevier, owner of The Lancet.”

and

That time they invented scientists as well as research papers…

3 Replies to “Nature attempts to paper over a genuine and reasonable lack of trust in China over COVID-19

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    China has owned us for 40 years. We surrendered. War over.

    I’m terminally tired of fake surprise and fake subjunctives.

    “Oh dear! If we’re not careful, China might accidentally start to gain a little bit of influence! We need to support the Correct Side to avoid this potential threat in the distant future!”

  2. 2
    jerry says:

    Create a deal where we ship generic Viagra to China and Vietnam and they safeguard pangolins.

    Problem solved.

  3. 3
    TAMMIE LEE HAYNES says:

    I have a question that I ask in good faith.
    Is there any rational reason to place any value on anything published in Lancet?

    It occured to me that the published material would have some value after it was peer reviewed, but then I realized that Lancet helps pick its peer reviewers.

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