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1. This is going to be a personal thread about the experience of working at the intersection of infectious disease modeling and the study of misinformation during the worst pandemic in a century.

If you're just interested in what is happening with the virus, you can skip it.
2. I spent the decade from 2000-2009 or so working with an amazing team of people around the world to develop the epidemiological modeling infrastructure to help us detect and forecast emerging infectious diseases in real time so as to stop them in their tracks if possible.
3. We had some pretty scary moments (weeks or months, really) where we didn't know if we were on the cusp of the Big One. SARS. H5N1 clusters. H1N1 swine flu before we knew the case fatality rate.

But we never had the feeling that we had already stepped off the diving board.
4. Somehow it always seemed like we'd be able to pull back from the brink, because the alternative was unimaginable.

And each time, that was right, thank goodness.
5. At the same time, we always imagined that if we ever did find ourselves in the position we are today, in free fall between the lip of the board and an impact of yet unknown violence, the world would be united in a struggle to save lives.
6. In all of the previous situations, both those that we halted (SARS, H5N1, MERS) and those that we didn't, there's a fog-of-war element to the entire process while it's happening. Estimates change as new data becomes available. Different research teams have valid disagreements.
7. That's part of the process. Everyone in the field accepts it. The arguments can get heated—I've at times disagreed publicly and vehemently with @neil_ferguson, for example—but it's because the stakes are high. At the end of the day we know we're on the same side.
8. There's no gotcha-ism. Updating your models and predictions in light of new evidence and new inferential methods and insightful counterpoints from colleagues isn't a sign of weakness, it's *doing science*.
9. We don't stake out positions on day 1 and then defend them as if our reputation depends on it. Rather, reputations depend on being flexible in light of new findings. You don't drop an idea just because it is criticized; you fight for it. But you also walk away when it's time.
10. And during this entire period, it certainly never occurred to us that there might some day be an axis along which our models and predictions about the future trajectory of epidemic would be deemed politically desirable or oppugnant.
11. Fast forward to the current crisis. As infectious disease epidemiologists, biomedical researchers, and health professionals more broadly, we're fighting a battle against the biggest crisis in decades.
12. But we are also fighting on a second front that we did not anticipate, fighting a battle against misinformation and disinformation in a hyper-partisan environment where our predictions and recommendations about the pandemic response are deeply politicized.
13. Every twist and turn that the pandemic takes is seized upon by one side or other to claim that some fraction of us are incompetent if not outright mendacious.

Researchers are pilloried for updating their beliefs based on new information.
14. In this environment, when unexpected facts come to light — a higher than anticipated R0, for example — they are used to discredit scientists who made correct inferences given the data that they had available at the time.
15. I think that some of the best practicing epidemiologists right now may be able to largely turn a blind eye to the social furor churning around their work, especially if they are not immediately involved in setting policy. At least I hope that they are.
16. Because I've spent this pandemic at the interface of the research and scientific communication domains, I haven't been able to do that.

And it's exhausting. It's demoralizing. I feel genuine sorrow over the way our society has become so polarized.
17. Every morning I wake up after 4-6 hours of fitful sleep; in that time I've received hundreds of comments, email messages, DMs, and other communications. Many are positive and supportive and I appreciate them very much.
18. But there are also a slew of vicious invectives. Attacks on my motives, my character, my intelligence. Calls for me to be reprimanded or fired by my university for my efforts (for what, I still don't understand). Ill wishes regarding my health. You name it.
19. I'm sure that 99% of these are motivated by what we call tribal epistemology, the idea that truth is determined not so much by the facts as by the way that a claim aligns with the story that a preferred leader is telling.
20. I try to shake these off, and turn to the day's science news. This gets hard with every consecutive 100-hour week.

Every day, there are new scicomm crises blowing up, and the thing that kills me is that they are almost without exception MANUFACTURED with political intent.
21. And I guess this is the crux of the thread, though I didn't know it until I got here.

(Twitter is an odd medium, writing stream-of-consciousness, unable to edit let alone restructure.)

For me, this is the heartbreaking part.

It turns out we're not all in this together.
i. A brief postscript.

For some kinds of scientific communication, it wouldn't matter so much. I was an evolutionary biologist through the heyday of the Intelligent Design movement. Public education was at stake, but millions of lives were not on the line.
ii. What is so terrible about the politicization of this pandemic is this: what people believe impacts how they behave, and it impacts the ability of our governments to muster the political will to enact the measures we need to slow and ultimately stop the spread of the virus.
iii. And so the fight against misinformation is not merely a scientific communication issue. It's a vital public health necessity.
iv. In all the years of studying infectious disease and planning for this day, I never dreamed that when it came I'd be opposed by my own federal government, a non-trivial fraction of my fellow citizens, and as yet undetermined fraction of hostile foreign actors.
v. Perhaps that was dreadfully naive of me, but the world has changed in profound ways since even 2010. Social media, hyper-partisanship, the broad populist distrust of experts, plummeting standards of factfulness in political discourse....
vi. I'll keep doing what I do. My colleagues doing the amazing work in hospitals and laboratories, with simulations and mathematical models, they'll keep on too.

We may not act like we're all in this together, but in a pandemic, like it or not, we are.
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