Press Release: CDC and NIH Policies During Pandemic Had No Proven Benefit to Public Health, Finds Report

National Association of Scholars

New York, NY; July 18, 2023—The National Association of Scholars (NAS) has released a new report examining the effects and origins of public health policy failures during the COVID-19 pandemic. The third report of Shifting Sands: Unsound Science and Unsafe Regulations, The Confounded Errors of Public Health Policy Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, focuses on failures by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to consider empirical evidence available in the public domain early in the pandemic. The report finds compelling circumstantial evidence that lockdowns and masking mandates imposed during the pandemic had no proven benefit to public health outcomes.

NAS’s report on the CDC and the NIH continues the work of the first two Shifting Sands reports. PM2.5 Regulation investigated irreproducible research in the field of environmental epidemiology, which informs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s policies and regulations. Flimsy Food Findings, likewise, found persuasive circumstantial evidence that the scientific literature (in general) and statistical practices (in particular) affecting the nutritional epidemiology of red and processed meats and negative health outcomes, as well as soy protein and cardiovascular disease risk reduction, are untrustworthy.

“The scientific world incentivizes the publishing of exciting research with significant association claims, but not reproducible research,” explained NAS Director of Research David Randall. “This encourages researchers, wittingly or negligently, to use a variety of statistical practices to produce positive, but likely false, claims.”

Shifting Sands argues that federal agencies would benefit from more rigorous and transparent statistical processes in laying the foundation for public health interventions. If these interventions are founded on faulty science, it could threaten to undermine public trust in all government initiatives on behalf of public health. This is an outcome Americans can ill afford, when trust in policymakers is already at an all-time low.

Randall continued: “Replication makes for sound science. Without it, our government is relying on potentially faulty research to create and enforce policy interventions that have real consequences on the liberty and prosperity of millions of Americans. I and my colleagues, Warren Kindzierski and Stanley Young, offer recommendations to bring the CDC’s and the NIH’s methodologies up to the level of best available science—and, more broadly, to protect American liberty.”

Confounded Errors recommends important reforms to restore trust between the public and its health- and science-based institutions. One such reform would require that future public health interventions receive explicit sanction from both houses of Congress. Government agencies also need to restore scientific transparency. The report recommends the pre-registration of mathematical modeling studies and funding to test the reproducibility of such studies. 

The report also recommends that the federal government establish a commission to investigate and report on any public health policy errors committed by the CDC during its response to COVID-19.

“America’s government must shore up the science that underlies its public health interventions,” concluded Randall. “Failure to do so will degrade both American prosperity and liberty and further erode public confidence in the nation’s public health experts.”

NAS is a network of scholars and citizens united by a commitment to academic freedom, disinterested scholarship, and excellence in American higher education. Membership in NAS is open to all who share a commitment to these broad principles. NAS publishes a journal and has state and regional affiliates. Visit NAS at www.nas.org.

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If you would like more information about this issue, please contact David Randall at [email protected].

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