When a scientist says "This paper doesn't show this" or "We don't have enough evidence to say"

They are not saying it's wrong. Or that it will never be shown. They are saying we all need to be really careful how we interpret this.


This *seems* simple but it's misinterpreted *all the time*.

Ex: When I say "we don't know for sure if masks are beneficial at population level" I am not saying "masks don't work" or "we'll never know if masks work." I'm not even weighing in on policy decisions on masks.

I'm simply saying, "we don't have evidence for this, so let's not pretend we do." That doesn't mean it's wrong. It means *we don't know yet.*

This is really critical and important in science. And you'll see scientists stepping in to clarify this *a lot.*

Often they get taken to town for suggesting the idea behind study is "wrong." That's not what they're saying. They're saying we can't say that idea is *right* from this study.

We might find the exact same thing in future, through better/different work - we might not.

Scientists may get accused later of "getting it wrong" when in actuality what they were saying is "THIS doesn't prove X". That doesn't mean another study won't prove X later -- & scientists aren't claiming that.
This really bothers me.

There are also limits on *what* we can tell from studies, which often get lost in media. The viral load/pathogenicity/mutations study from today being a good example: https://twitter.com/NathanGrubaugh/status/1252562768068304898

This is outside of my field so I can't comment much on the methods.

What I *can* say (& matches Nathan above) is that it's very, very hard to extrapolate from virulence in Vero cells to #COVID19 disease severity in humans.

The study may not be "bad" - but it is easily over-interpreted in the current #SARSCoV2-media-frenzy & public interest

Again, this is different from saying "none of these mutations influence disease severity." What is being said is "this does not tell us how mutations impact disease in humans."

A lot of people now like to jump in with 'common sense' - but this isn't how science works!

And trust me - you are glad it works this way! You are glad that treatments, medicines, & protocols aren't based on 'common sense' from a monkey-cell study.

It is *literally our job* to know where to draw the line on 'what we know.'

Studies like the above may indeed still be interesting first steps to guide us - but they are a long way from what they often end up portrayed in comments, social media, & mainstream media. (Watch out for this!)

Other studies may be hopelessly wrong in design/execution/interpretation, but later their conclusion may be proven correct by a better/different method. That doesn't make the original study any less wrong or uninformative.

So when a scientist says "this doesn't show this" or "we don't know" - please try to remember to pause & evaluate this for what it is - a caution to *watch out* - the evidence isn't here yet!

But I have great faith in science - we're moving so incredibly fast right now!

We *will* find the answers to many of the questions we have today. We are working together so well, so openly, so fast on #COVID19 #SARSCoV2

But it's worth waiting for the real, hard evidence. We'll all benefit more from it! 👏🏻🙌🏻

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