Carine06 from UK, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
In October 2021, researchers from the University of Southern Denmark and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund published a paper in the Springer Nature journal Scientific Reports suggesting that COVID-19 could exacerbate the likelihood of extinction of the endangered Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda.
Uh-oh. Sounds like another potentially devastating consequence of the pandemic.
The paper has now been retracted by the authors. Why? Because they used outdated estimates of Case Fatality Rates in their statistical models and therefore
our published results significantly overestimated the chances of extinction of the population should a COVID-19 outbreak occur.
Retraction Watch has the full story.
1. You might think that before making a five-alarm claim about a possible extinction event scientists would obsessively cross-check the validity of their input assumptions.
You would be wrong.
2. This wasn’t a study documenting COVID-19 deaths in the Rwanda Mountain Gorilla population.
It was a paper based entirely on a statistical model. The model’s parameters were faulty, resulting in an Emily Latella style retraction.
Can you think of other high-profile scientific modeling exercises with alarming conclusions that might be based on poorly documented and/or questionable input parameters?
Fernando Colchero, Winnie Eckardt, and Taa Stoinski. (2021). RETRACTED ARTICLE: Exploring the potential effect of COVID-19 on an endangered great ape. Scientific Reports 11:20715