Lab Leak Theory

I’m in research— but more so in machine learning/human computer interaction, and NOT in biomedical or pathology.

While I can’t comment on the medical side, I can broadly discuss the general collaborative environment. There is pressure even within US graduate schools (PHD programs/professors) to stay away from topics — such as China or censorship, or ways that would reflect negatively on the government in China. Another issue is, there are some cultural biases (esp. due to the firewall in China) and trust in information, this leads to some differences in opinion and influences, which makes certain things taboo. This is largely to avoid conflict with influential professors or peers that are from China. However, the desire to avoid conflict and potential consequences negatively influences the research.

This is a common but specific/recent experience. Let’s say for instance, we’re working on a natural language processing (NLP) model for detecting fake news. In this case, the doctoral students and professors from China used news articles as the verifiable ground truth and to train the model to predict which articles are real or fake. However, the problem within some of the articles used to train the model, are pro-China biased and potentially misinformation laden articles that state the police in HOng Kong did not use excessive violence against protestors. Yet, many other sites such as Reuters, BBC, AP News, NPR, WaPo, all have video documentation of the described incident.

The end result of the NLP model then labels articles that state “HK police did not use excessive violence against protestors” or even more broadly “HK police did not use violence against the protestors”.

While it’s subtle, this shows how selection and design of the articles — through their biases, are influencing research publications and how search engines or social media is being designed. It’s problematic in its ability to rewrite truth, skew perceptions, and hide information.

TLDR; the ramifications are more implied rather than direct, but there is pressure to not cause conflict. Fear from losing your doctoral studies or tenure progress and research funding is quite effective.

Edit: An example of another recent scandal (if proven true) is a PHD student from was dismissed by his research/professor advisor in the EU, after the student allegedly tweeted complaints about the Chinese government while researching in China.

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