"The early warning disease network that alerted the world to the original SARS outbreak and the start of the Covid-19 pandemic appears to be in peril."

"In February 2003, it was ProMED that alerted the world to the fact that a new disease that caused pneumonia had started to spread in China’s Guangdong province. That disease became known as SARS — severe acute respiratory syndrome. In September 2012, an Egyptian doctor working in Saudi Arabia wrote to ProMED to reveal he had treated a patient who died from pneumonia triggered by a new coronavirus, a camel virus we now know as MERS — Middle East respiratory syndrome. Just before midnight on Dec. 30, 2019, a ProMED “RFI” post — request for information — was the first warning the outside world received of a fast-growing outbreak in Wuhan, China. That was the start of the Covid-19 pandemic."

""In its post dated July 14, the ISID revealed it had been having trouble raising the money needed to sustain ProMED. A fundraising drive that aimed for $1 million brought in $20,000. “To put it frankly, ProMED is in dire financial straits,” the post said."

This doesn't seem very expensive to sustain, and losing ProMED would be a step backwards when we're aiming for an effective global early warning system - surely a group of EA donors could save ProMED?

You can directly donate here - but it might make sense to get in touch with ProMED before making large donations.




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The moderator team is (IMO) the most valuable part of ProMED, and they seem to have fundamental strategic disagreement with ISID leadership. It's not obvious to me that an influx of donations would solve this problem, even temporarily.

I'm also concerned about the internal strife within ISID/ProMED. I've copied and pasted some quotes below.

Here's an excerpt from the STATnews article that this post links to:

...Larry Madoff, who served as editor of the program from 2002 to 2021. In spring 2021, Madoff said he was “forced out” by the organization’s CEO, Linda MacKinnon, and Alison Holmes, then president of the ISID executive committee. A professor of infectious diseases at the University of Massachusetts, Madoff refers to himself as editor emeritus of ProMED, a title bestowed upon him by the moderators with whom he worked.

Those same moderators — many of whom are signatories to the letter posted Thursday — wrote to the ISID to protest Madoff’s departure in 2021. They were told the matter was private and management would not discuss the rationale with them.

ProMED has not appointed a new editor, though it named a chief content officer, Jarod Hanson, in July 2022.

The letter linked to by Alex D above is also interesting. I've copied in some excerpts below, but the full letter is not loads longer and worth a read.

Some of you were unpleasantly surprised by the letter sent to all ProMED subscribers on 14 July 2023, informing you that, because of severe financial straits, ProMED will be limiting search capabilities and implementing a paid subscription model. Although the letter was signed by "The ProMED Team," we the undersigned want to assure you that we had no prior knowledge of that letter. On the same day, ProMED moderators were informed by ISID that their pay, which is in arrears, would be delayed for at least 2 months.


ProMED moderators and editors have formed a tight knit collegial community over many years. For most of us, creating ProMED's content is a labor of love. However, we cannot be expected to continue working on good will alone. With the loss of our Editor-in-Chief, and no voice in key administrative decisions directly affecting ProMED writers and readers, any such good will has evaporated.

It is therefore with great sadness and regret that we, the undersigned, are hereby suspending our work for ProMED.


Therefore, to restore our allegiance and legitimately call ProMED's writers and editors a "ProMED Team," ISID would need to:

1. Partner with one or more outside organizations in hosting ProMED in order to ensure that the fiscal and infrastructure needs of ProMED will be met.

2. Provide us with transparency and voting representation on the ISID executive committee.

3. Ensure the administrative and editorial independence of ProMED's content and subscription policies. This could largely be accomplished by restoring a true Editor-in-Chief position with independent executive authority.

There's a statement from the ISID CEO Linda MacKinnon which went up yesterday:

We recognize that members of the ProMED community are concerned about the continuation of the platform and want to reassure them that we hear their concerns. We know how many in our community start their day with ProMED and rely on its reports for their work. We also know that we could have communicated changes more clearly to the community and apologize for any confusion and distress caused.

We want to reassure users that ProMED services continue in a limited capacity, but there will likely be a temporary reduction in the number of posts on the website while we work with the signatories to yesterday’s letter.

Regarding delays in payments to Moderators, this is unfortunately not a unique situation because ProMED has always operated on a shoestring budget. This means that sometimes payments are delayed due to cash flow or funding issues. Over ProMED’s almost 30 years of existence, payment terms to Moderators have thus changed and evolved. We have addressed this more recently by stabilizing the predictability of payments. However, as we are currently in a funding pinch, we communicated in July to the ProMED team that some payments would be delayed, potentially up to two months. Despite this, some stipends have been paid in full but we still have more to cover. Some colleagues asked to be paid sooner because of personal circumstances, which we have accommodated.

When it comes to the long-term future of ProMED, the management team has been working consistently to address the lack of funding to keep ProMED running. Moving toward a predictable sustained revenue stream for the massive amount of work that takes place within ProMED is not something we should be afraid to talk about. It takes resources to provide early warning alerts to the world that so many industries, bodies, and governments depend on. I want to emphasize that the challenge is not ProMED’s alone. We know many peer organizations around the world are facing similar funding issues and have been working alongside other global bodies to address this gap. Underinvestment in public surveillance is a global issue.

For more than a year, we have been discussing ProMED’s financial plight with the many different entities and all key super-users of ProMED data. We have reiterated the need for sustained funding with such users to allow us to update the technology and deliver a modernized working environment for our ProMED Moderators, Correspondents, and Rapporteurs, as well as provide better curation of data for our many thousands of users around the world. However, no funding has materialized. The only viable path forward is to move to a subscription-based model, and in essence, decommission scrapers. This is not a move we wanted to make but in the absence of external funding, is required to keep ProMED operating.

To address other concerns that ProMED has not considered all investment avenues, I can confirm that to date, ISID has not received any proposals for funding partnerships, endowments, or revenue sharing. We are open to funding proposals from any interested party. Many have stated the need for ProMED and talked about the need for change, but no one has followed this up with concrete funding. Despite this, we have continued to provide the world with many key first alerts in the modern age, with subject matter expert data curation unparalleled by any other entity.

ISID has been covering the costs for ProMED since 1999, and piecing together small funding amounts is not feasible any longer. There is a perception that ProMED has sustained funding, but that has never been the case. With the need for staff, technology upgrades, and all the software as a service we pay for to keep emails flowing to our 20,000 subscribers, we need a new business model. We are working tirelessly on all fronts for unrestricted grants, and are exploring and open to strategic partnerships.

We know our community wants to do even more with ProMED. And we want to deliver for them. Our vision for an upgraded, mobile, and sophisticated platform that meets the needs of our subscribers requires unrestricted operational funding and investment. We ask organizations to get in touch if you can fund, want to partner, or have a collaborative proposal to share at

A summary based on the quotes which I included in a separate comment:

  • Larry Madoff, who served as editor of the program from 2002 to 2021, said he was “forced out” by the organization’s CEO, Linda MacKinnon, according to STATnews
    • It seems likely that something unfortunate is happening here, but I'm unclear what.
  • There was a letter written by several ProMED moderators, it appears that they objected to:
    • A letter going out to all ProMED subscribers proposing a subscription model; 
      • this was signed by "The ProMED team" without the moderators being informed in advance; I don't know much about what's going on here, but this seems like a management issue;
    • they didn't say it explicitly, but I'm guessing they are opposed to the subscription model, not just to the way the process was managed.
      • I don't know enough to know whether the subscription model is a good idea.
  • They also objected to not receiving pay in a timely manner.
    • ISID CEO Linda MacKinnon's response statement said: "this is unfortunately not a unique situation because ProMED has always operated on a shoestring budget. <...> We have addressed this more recently by stabilizing the predictability of payments. However, as we are currently in a funding pinch, we communicated in July to the ProMED team that some payments would be delayed, potentially up to two months."
    • I'm unclear on what it could mean for them to have stabilised the predictability of payments (maybe they opted not to explain that for brevity?) Whatever it is, I'm unclear on how it could have been effective given the communications about payments being delayed for up to two months.
  • The moderators/editors who wrote the letter took the apparently strong action of suspending their work, even though they described it as a labour of love.
  • One of the details mentioned in Linda MacKinnon's statement is that they plan to decommission scrapers. I'm confused by this, since I would have guessed that scrapers would be one of the more cost-effective components.

The disagreement appears to stem entirely from decisions made around managing the financial difficulties - ProMED implemented a subscription model without consulting all the moderators because of financial difficulties, and hasn’t paid moderators because of financial difficulties. An influx of funding would solve both these problems.

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