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Are Online Activists Silencing Researchers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Zorro (Slashdot reader #15,759), shares Reuters’ report about Michael Sharpe, a medical researcher studying chronic fatigue syndrome, “a little-understood condition that can bring crushing tiredness and pain.”
Eight years after he published results of a clinical trial that found some patients with chronic fatigue syndrome can get a little better with the right talking and exercise therapies, the Oxford University professor is subjected to almost daily, often anonymous, intimidation… They object to his work, they said, because they think it suggests their illness is psychological. Sharpe, a professor of psychological medicine, says that isn’t the case. He believes that chronic fatigue syndrome is a biological condition that can be perpetuated by social and psychological factors…
Sharpe is one of around a dozen researchers in this field worldwide who are on the receiving end of a campaign to discredit their work. For many scientists, it’s a new normal: From climate change to vaccines, activism and science are fighting it out online. Social media platforms are supercharging the battle. Reuters contacted a dozen professors, doctors and researchers with experience of analysing or testing potential treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome. All said they had been the target of online harassment because activists objected to their findings. Only two had definite plans to continue researching treatments. With as many as 17 million people worldwide suffering this disabling illness, scientific research into possible therapies should be growing, these experts said, not dwindling. What concerns them most, they said, is that patients could lose out if treatment research stalls.
Sharpe says he’s no longer researching treatments, because “It’s just too toxic.” And he tells Reuters that other researchers appear to be reaching the same conclusion.
“Of more than 20 leading research groups who were publishing treatment studies in high-quality journals 10 years ago, Sharpe said, only one or two continue to do so.”

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