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Archive of posts filed under the Zombies category.

An open letter expressing concerns regarding the statistical analysis and data integrity of a recently published and publicized paper

James Watson prepared this open letter to **, **, **, and **, authors of ** and to ** (editor of **). The letter has approximately 96,032 signatures from approximately 6 continents. And I heard a rumor that they have contacts at the Antarctic Polar Station who are going to sign the thing once they can […]

Blast from the past

Lizzie told me about this paper, “Bidirectionality, Mediation, and Moderation of Metaphorical Effects: The Embodiment of Social Suspicion and Fishy Smells,” which reports: As expected (see Figure 1), participants who were exposed to incidental fishy smells invested less money (M = $2.53, SD = $0.93) than those who were exposed to odorless water (M = […]

Last post on hydroxychloroquine (perhaps)

James “not this guy” Watson writes: The Lancet study has already been consequential, for example, the WHO have decided to remove the hydroxychloroquine arm from their flagship SOLIDARITY trial. Thanks in part to the crowdsourcing of data sleuthing on your blog, I have an updated version of doubts concerning the data reliability/veracity. 1/ Ozzy numbers: […]

This controversial hydroxychloroquine paper: What’s Lancet gonna do about it?

Peer review is not a form of quality control In the past month there’s been a lot of discussion of the flawed Stanford study of coronavirus prevalence—it’s even hit the news—and one thing came up was that the article under discussion was just a preprint—it wasn’t even peer reviewed! For example, in a NYT op-ed: […]

Be careful when estimating years of life lost: quick-and-dirty estimates of attributable risk are, well, quick and dirty.

Peter Morfeld writes: Global burden of disease (GBD) studies and environmental burden of disease (EBD) studies are supported by hundreds of scientifically well-respected co-authors, are published in high level journals, are cited world wide and have a large impact on health institutions‘ reports and related political discussions. The main metrics used to calculate the impact […]

But the top graph looked like such strong evidence!

I just posted this a few hours ago, but it’s such an important message that I’d like to post it again. Actually, maybe we should just post nothing but the above graph every day, over and over again, for the next 20 years. This is hugely important, one of the most important things we need […]

Some thoughts on another failed replication in psychology

Joe Simmons and Leif Nelson write: We report our attempt to replicate a study in a recently published Journal of Marketing Research (JMR) article entitled, “Having Control Over and Above Situations: The Influence of Elevated Viewpoints on Risk Taking”. The article’s abstract summarizes the key result: “consumers’ views of scenery from a high physical elevation […]

No, average statistical power is not as high as you think: Tracing a statistical error as it spreads through the literature

I was reading this recently published article by Sakaluk et al. and came across a striking claim: Despite recommendations that studies be conducted with 80% power for the expected effect size, recent reviews have found that the average social science study possesses only a 44% chance of detecting an existing medium-sized true effect (Szucs & […]

Are informative priors “[in]compatible with standards of research integrity”? Click to find out!!

A couple people asked me what I thought of this article by Miguel Ángel García-Pérez, Bayesian Estimation with Informative Priors is Indistinguishable from Data Falsification, which states: Bayesian analysis with informative priors is formally equivalent to data falsification because the information carried by the prior can be expressed as the addition of fabricated observations whose […]

So much of academia is about connections and reputation laundering

There are two ways of looking at this: 1. Statistics / numerical analysis / data science is a lot harder than you, the reader of this blog, might think. 2. Academia, like any other working environment, is full of prominent, successful, well-connected bluffers. Someone sent me this: and this followup: I clicked around a bit, […]

2 perspectives on the relevance of social science to our current predicament: (1) social scientists should back off, or (2) social science has a lot to offer

Perspective 1: Social scientists should back off This is what the political scientist Anthony Fowler wrote the other day: The public appetite for more information about Covid-19 is understandably insatiable. Social scientists have been quick to respond. . . . While I understand the impulse, the rush to publish findings quickly in the midst of […]

Uncertainty and variation as distinct concepts

Jake Hofman, Dan Goldstein, and Jessica Hullman write: Scientists presenting experimental results often choose to display either inferential uncertainty (e.g., uncertainty in the estimate of a population mean) or outcome uncertainty (e.g., variation of outcomes around that mean). How does this choice impact readers’ beliefs about the size of treatment effects? We investigate this question […]

“So the real scandal is: Why did anyone ever listen to this guy?”

John Fund writes: [Imperial College epidemiologist Neil] Ferguson was behind the disputed research that sparked the mass culling of eleven million sheep and cattle during the 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. He also predicted that up to 150,000 people could die. There were fewer than 200 deaths. . . . In 2002, Ferguson predicted that […]

“Positive Claims get Publicity, Refutations do Not: Evidence from the 2020 Flu”

Part 1 Andrew Lilley, Gianluca Rinaldi, and Matthew Lilley write: You might be familiar with a recent paper by Correira, Luck, and Verner who argued that cities that enacted non-pharmaceutical interventions earlier / for longer during the Spanish Flu of 1918 had higher subsequent economic growth. The paper has had extensive media coverage – e.g. […]

NPR’s gonna NPR (special coronavirus junk science edition)

1. The news! Zad’s cat, pictured above, is not impressed by this bit of cargo-cult science that two people sent to me: No vaccine or effective treatment has yet been found for people suffering from COVID-19. Under the circumstances, a physician in Kansas City wonders whether prayer might make a difference, and he has launched […]

The return of the red state blue state fallacy

Back in the early days of this blog, we had frequent posts about the differences between Republican or Democratic voters and Republican or Democratic areas. This was something that confused lots of political journalists, most notably Michael Barone (see, for example, here) and Tucker Carlson (here), also academics such as psychologist Jonathan Haidt (here) and […]

No, they won’t share their data.

Jon Baron read the recent article, “Presenting Characteristics, Comorbidities, and Outcomes Among 5700 Patients Hospitalized With COVID-19 in the New York City Area,” and sent the following message to one of the authors: I read with interest your article in JAMA. I have been trying to follow this issue closely, if only because my wife […]

“I don’t want ‘crowd peer review’ or whatever you want to call it,” he said. “It’s just too burdensome and I’d rather have a more formal peer review process.”

I understand the above quote completely. Life would be so much simpler if my work was just reviewed by my personal friends and by people whose careers are tied to mine. Sure, they’d point out problems, but they’d do it in a nice way, quietly. They’d understand that any mistakes I made would never have […]

Information or Misinformation During a Pandemic: Comparing the effects of following Nassim Taleb, Richard Epstein, or Cass Sunstein on twitter.

So, there’s this new study doing the rounds. Some economists decided to study the twitter followers of prominent coronavirus skeptics and fearmongers, and it seems that followers of Nassim Taleb were more likely to shelter in place, and less like to die of coronavirus, than followers of Richard Epstein or Cass Sunstein. And the differences […]


Just a reminder that life goes on (thanks to commenter Lemmus), from the British Journal of Social Psychology: Are women more likely to wear red and pink at peak fertility? What about on cold days? Conceptual, close, and extended replications with novel clothing colour measures. Evolutionarily minded researchers have hypothesized that women advertise their ovulatory […]