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Our publications keep professionals working across the public, private, and academic sectors informed on the most important developments and issues in health security and biosecurity.

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Title:

In Response: Yan et al Preprint Examinations of the Origin of SARS-CoV-2

Authors:
Kelsey Lane Warmbrod; Rachel M. West; Nancy D. Connell; Gigi Kwik Gronvall
Date posted:
September 22, 2020
Publication type:
In response
Publisher:
The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security
See also:
Introduction:

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has caused more than 961,000 known deaths1 since it was reported to the World Health Organization on December 31, 2019. Determining the origin of the pandemic coronavirus is of great importance, not only to understand the mechanics of how the virus replicates and spreads but also to anticipate and prevent additional viruses from becoming future health security crises. If an origin can be found for SARS-CoV-2, steps can then be taken to prevent a similar pathway for other viruses to lead to a pandemic. For that reason, it is the responsibility of the scientific community to review and analyze data relating to the origin of SARS-CoV-2.

Several analyses of the potential origin of SARS-CoV-2 have been published in scientific journals that provide peer review prior to publication.2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 Peer review is central to the scientific process because scrutiny by experts allows for meaningful conclusions to be drawn about available data and reduces inappropriate extrapolation or misinterpretation. It is an imperfect process, often criticized for slowness, but peer review is a necessary part of building reliability in the scientific record. Complex scientific details are best understood and critiqued by others who are also experts in a technical field. When the audience for an article is broadened, even to a technical audience in an adjacent scientific field, data may appear smoother and less conflicting than it is in reality, leading to a blurring or skewing of its real meaning.

In this document, we have undertaken a scientific review of a recent report, released as a preprint put forward by the Rule of Law Society, authored by . The report,10 presents a theory about the origin of SARS-CoV-2 but offers contradictory and inaccurate information that does not support their argument. As the report has not been submitted to a scientific peer-reviewed publication, which would provide the expert scrutiny expected by the scientific community and the larger public, we aim to provide an objective analysis of details included in the report, as would be customary in a peer-review process.

 

 

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