The Victorian government in Australia recently tried to justify its mandatory face mask policy by referencing a paper published in Plos One during July 2020 by the Burnet Institute. 

Unfortunately for them, however, this study has since been found to be “riddled with basic errors” to the point that, according to medical researchers, it should “never have been published.”

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The study in question said the following:

We assessed changes in mask-wearing behaviours using images from the digital archive of The Age (https://www.theage.com.au/), one of the two major daily Victorian newspapers. To ensure we captured all images (not just those published), the librarian/digital archivist from the newspaper reviewed consecutive photos in their archive that were taken between July 10 and August 2, 2020 (14 days before and 14 days after mandatory mask policy introduction). From these, all photos taken in public locations in urban Melbourne, such as streetscapes and shopping centres, and contained clear images of people were extracted and used to calculate the proportion of people wearing masks in public.”

Rebel News reported that the use of 44 media-generated photos had been widely panned, as experts have pointed out that contents created by news outlets for editorial purposes do not fit with the requirements of a randomized scientific trial.

If a student presented the photographic data, it would be ridiculed,” one researcher said.

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Independent experts have since found that the study contained significant errors that should have disqualified it from being used for government health policy.

To me, it’s very clear this has not had a close peer review, partly because of the serious and substantive issues, but [also] it just clearly hasn’t been proofread,” said Dr. Kyle Sheldrick, a medical researcher from the University of New South Wales. 

There has been a lot of low-quality research that has come out in the pandemic, but for this to be used as a basis for a policy change is staggering,” added Sheldrick. “When I look at this particular piece of research, it is very, very low quality. I was staggered to see this was published by a major journal.”

Another anonymous expert agreed, saying, “I agree, it’s crap. It’s extremely lightweight. I think it’s a totally feeble article. It doesn’t have a rigorous methodology, and it is weak in its scientific inference. I’ve been around a long time – I teach how you do clear thinking, I teach how you do reproducible science. I’m a bit of a stickler for these things.”