Thursday, February 05, 2009

Remember that Lancet Study?

The one that estimated the number of excess deaths in Iraq to be astronomically higher than any other count? Well, it's still in the news and the main criticism still stands:

Nondisclosure cited in Iraq Casualties Study: Controversial Survey Author Rebuked for Failing to Disclose Details of His Work
"In a highly unusual rebuke, the American Association for Public Opinion Research today said the author of a widely debated survey on "excess deaths" in Iraq had violated its code of professional ethics by refusing to disclose details of his work. The author's institution later disclosed to ABC News that it, too, is investigating the study."
"Burnham did not reply to e-mail and telephone messages.

AAPOR's standards committee chair, Mary E. Losch, said the association, acting on a member's complaint, had formally requested from Burnham "basic information about his survey, including, for example, the wording of questions he used, instructions and explanations that were provided to respondents, and a summary of the outcomes for all households selected as potential participants in the survey."

Losch said Burnham gave some partial answers but "explicitly refused to provide complete information about the basic elements of his research."
"Questions about the studies have included the sampling approach, the estimate of baseline deaths (necessary to compute an "excess" figure) and the sheer level of deaths reported – in 2006, the equivalent of more than 500 a day for more than three years, far outstripping other estimates.

In AAPOR's statement, its president, Richard A. Kulka, said: "When researchers draw important conclusions and make public statements and arguments based on survey research, then subsequently refuse to answer even basic questions about how their research was conducted, this violates the fundamental standards of science, seriously undermines open public debate on critical issues, and undermines the credibility of all survey and public opinion research."


Blogger Ben D. said...

It is a shame that such criticisms only come to light now, how many months later?

February 05, 2009 12:07 pm  
Blogger Louise said...

Actually, Ben, if you do a search of my blog using the word "Lancet" you will find several discussions of it with plenty of links. This criticism was levied against the research right from the beginning. I guess the wheels of justice grind slowly.

February 05, 2009 12:55 pm  
Anonymous Saskboy said...

You will probably find this interesting then.

February 05, 2009 3:47 pm  
Blogger Louise said...

Holy smokes, Saskboy. Talk about missing the entire point behind Remembrance Day, for starters. In addition to that, the link you provide talks about the entire span of the war, which, in case you haven't noticed, only started to peter out about a year ago. The Lancet study placed the death toll at somewhere in the neighbourhood of 650,000 in only the first two years of the war. Thirdly, the entire point of the article I'm referring to in this posting is that the author of the research has refused to let anyone know anything about his methods or see any of his data. Hardly a position that would encourage trust in his results, now is it?

February 05, 2009 5:48 pm  
Blogger Indigo Red said...

Why would he reveal his methodology? After all, the consensus is in and the debate is over.

February 06, 2009 9:57 pm  

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