The COVID-19 pandemic presents special challenges to even well-informed and well-intentioned promulgators and consumers of medical research findings, including the legal community.
The stakes in the debate about handling the pandemic are extremely high in terms of lives, jobs, wealth, and political power. In addition, there are tremendous opportunities for researchers to receive attention and notoriety for influencing the debate.
All this means that perverse incentives exist to publicize initial scientific findings that are dubious, poorly vetted, and possibly dangerous to public welfare. The risk of promulgating false or misleading scientific claims is substantial, even when they are made by well-respected scientists affiliated with prestigious institutions. Government authorities must be extremely cautious about basing public policy decisions on inadequately vetted findings, no matter how much hype they get.