Skip to content
Archive of posts filed under the Sociology category.

His data came out in the opposite direction of his hypothesis. How to report this in the publication?

Fabio Martinenghi writes: I am a PhD candidate in Economics and I would love to have guidance from you on this issue of scientific communication. I did an empirical study on the effect of a policy. I had an hypothesis, which turned out to be wrong, in the sense the the expected signs of the […]

Taking the bus

Bert Gunter writes: This article on bus ridership is right up your alley [it’s a news article with interactive graphics and lots of social science content]. The problem is that they’re graphing the wrong statistic. Raw ridership is of course sensitive to total population. So they should have been graphing is rates per person, not […]

2 econ Nobel prizes, 1 error

This came up before on the blog but it’s always worth remembering. From Larry White, quoted by Don Boudreaux: As late as the 1989 edition [of his textbook, Paul Samuelson] and coauthor William Nordhaus wrote: “The Soviet economy is proof that, contrary to what many skeptics had earlier believed, a socialist command economy can function […]

Econ grad student asks, “why is the government paying us money, instead of just firing us all?”

Someone who wishes anonymity writes: I am a graduate student at the Department of Economics at a European university. Throughout the last several years, I have been working as RA (and sometimes co-author) together with multiple different professors and senior researchers, mainly within economics, and predominantly analysing very large datasets. I have 3 questions related […]

Battle of the open-science asymmetries

1. Various tenured legacy-science yahoos say: “Any idiot can write a critique; it takes work to do original research.” That’s my paraphrase of various concerns that the replication movement makes it too easy for critics to get cheap publications. 2. Rex Douglass says: “It is an order of magnitude less effort to spam poorly constructed […]

Do we trust this regression?

Kevin Lewis points us to this article, “Do US TRAP Laws Trap Women Into Bad Jobs?”, which begins: This study explores the impact of women’s access to reproductive healthcare on labor market opportunities in the US. Previous research finds that access to the contraception pill delayed age at first birth and increased access to a […]

Their findings don’t replicate, but they refuse to admit they might’ve messed up. (We’ve seen this movie before.)

Ricardo Vieira writes: I have been reading the replication efforts by the datacolada team (in particular Leif Nelson and Joe Simmons). You have already mentioned some of their work here and here. They have just published the #7 installation of the series, and I felt it was a good time to summarize the results for […]

Some possibly different experiences of being a statistician working with an international collaborative research group like OHDSI.

This post is by Keith O’Rourke and as with all posts and comments on this blog, is just a deliberation on dealing with uncertainties in scientific inquiry and should not to be attributed to any entity other than the author. Starting at the end of March, I thought it would be good idea to let […]

Some thoughts inspired by Lee Cronbach (1975), “Beyond the two disciplines of scientific psychology”

I happened to come across this article today. It’s hardly obscure—it has over 3000 citations, according to Google scholar—but it was new to me. It’s a wonderful article. You should read it right away. OK, click on the above link and read the article. Done? OK, then read on.

That “not a real doctor” thing . . . It’s kind of silly for people to think that going to medical school for a few years will give you the skills necessary to be able to evaluate research claims in medicine or anything else.

Paul Alper points us to this news article by Abby Phillip, “How a fake doctor made millions from ‘the Dr. Oz Effect’ and a bogus weight-loss supplement,” which begins: When Lindsey Duncan appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show” in 2012, he was introduced as a “naturopathic doctor” and a certified nutritionist. . . . But […]

Updates of bad forecasts: Let’s follow them up and see what happened!

People make bad forecasts, then they move on. Do the forecasts ever get fixed? Do experts learn from their mistakes? Let’s look at three examples. 1. The economist who kept thinking that the Soviets were catching up Paul Samuelson: Yes, the above graph was from 1961, but “in subsequent editions Samuelson presented the same analysis […]

Which experts should we trust?

In a comment on our post, “Expert writes op-ed in NYT recommending that we trust the experts,” commenter DCE writes: Perhaps this post can have a follow-up on “How do I choose which experts to believe?” While broadly, Pigliucci’s “Nonsense on Stilts” offers some good discussion, there is the real issue of ulterior motives in […]

The history of low-hanging intellectual fruit

Alex Tabarrok asks, why was the game Dungeons and Dragons, or something like it, not invented in ancient Rome? He argues that the ancient Romans had the technology (that would be dice, I guess) so why didn’t someone thing of inventing a random-number-driven role-playing game? I don’t have an answer, but I think we can […]

“Which, in your personal judgment, is worse, if you could only choose ONE? — (a) A homosexual (b) A doctor who refuses to make a house call to someone seriously ill?”

Old polls are the greatest. From the Harris 1969 Changing Morality Survey: How many people knew a gay person? The gay penumbra was pretty small back then. Only something like 12% of the population said they knew a gay person. Or maybe 12% is a lot; I’m not quite sure how to think about this […]

Negativity (when applied with rigor) requires more care than positivity.

Tyler Cowen writes: Avoid criticizing other public intellectuals. In fact, avoid the negative as much as possible. However pressing a social or economic issue may be, there is almost always a positive and constructive way to reframe your potential contribution. This also will force you to keep on thinking harder, because it is easier to […]

Male bisexuality gets Big PNAS Energy

Do flowers exist at night?—John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch I have very little to say here, except to let you all know that the venerable PNAS has today published a paper (edited by Steven Pinker) letting use know that male bisexuality exists. Here it is: Robust evidence for bisexual orientation among men (The paper […]

Can the science community help journalists avoid science hype? It won’t be easy.

tl;dr: Selection bias. The public letter Michael Eisen and Rob Tibshirani write: Researchers have responded to the challenge of the coronavirus with a commitment to speed and cooperation, featuring the rapid sharing of preliminary findings through “preprints,” scientific manuscripts that have not yet undergone formal peer review. . . . But the open dissemination of […]

“Sorry, there is no peer review to display for this article.” Huh? Whassup, BMJ?

OK, this is weird. Yesterday we reported on an article with questionable statistical analysis published in the British Medical Journal. This one’s different from some other examples we’ve discussed recently (Surgisphere and Stanford) in that the author list of this recent article includes several statisticians. One way to get a handle on this situation is […]

Conflicting public attitudes on redistribution

Sociologist David Weakliem wrote recently: A Quinnipiac poll from April 2019: “Do you support or oppose raising the tax rate to 70% on an individual’s income that is over $10 million dollars?” 36% support, 59% oppose A CNN poll from February 2019: “Would you favor or oppose raising the personal income tax rate for those […]

The “scientist as hero” narrative

We’ve talked about the problems with the scientist-as-hero paradigm; see “Narrative #1” discussed here. And, more recently, we’ve considered how this narrative has been clouding people’s thinking regarding the coronavirus; see here and here. That latter example is particularly bad because it involved a reporter with an undisclosed conflict of interest. But the scientist-as-hero narrative […]