Monday, February 09, 2009

Science In Service of Liberalism

Remember the two biased and over-the-top "studies" in Lancet magazine, claiming the Iraq invasion killed 100,000 civilians through 2004 and 655,000 civilians by 2006? Of course you remember: liberals and the media loved it. Despite the fact that no other investigation came close to such numbers, and several analysts alleged fraud by the study's leaders, Les Roberts and Gilbert Burnham, a suspicion heightened when it turned out that half the study's funding was provided by professional Bush-bashing billionaire George Soros.

So NOfP was shocked, shocked this week when it was confirmed that the left and the MSM were wrong; the Lancet studies apparently were so flawed that one author preferred masking his methods to defending the data:
The Executive Council of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) announced Tuesday that an 8-month investigation found that Dr. Gilbert Burnham violated the Association's Code of Professional Ethics & Practices.

AAPOR found that Burnham, a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, repeatedly refused to make public essential facts about his research on civilian deaths in Iraq. In particular, the AAPOR inquiry focused on Burnham’s publication of results from a survey reported in the October 2006 issue of the journal Lancet. When asked to provide several basic facts about this research, Burnham refused.

AAPOR holds that researchers must disclose, or make available for public disclosure, the wording of questions and other basic methodological details when survey findings are made public. This disclosure is important so that claims made on the basis of survey research findings can be independently evaluated. Section III of the AAPOR Code states: "Good professional practice imposes the obligation upon all public opinion researchers to include, in any report of research results, or to make available when that report is released, certain essential information about how the research was conducted."

Mary E. Losch, chair of AAPOR's Standards Committee, noted that AAPOR's investigation of Burnham began in March 2008, after receiving a complaint from a member. According to Losch, "AAPOR formally requested on more than one occasion from Dr. Burnham some basic information about his survey including, for example, the wording of the 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. Dr. Burnham provided only partial information and explicitly refused to provide complete information about the basic elements of his research."
Burnham doesn't belong to the AAPOR, so that organization can do little. But, that same day, ABC News reported that Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health was conducting "its own investigation of the Iraq casualties report 'to determine if any violation of the school's rules or guidelines for the conduct of research occurred.'"

Lefties routinely claim to be advancing objective investigations by intelligent experts, bucking ignorant conservatives bent on subverting science. The reality is that:
there are at least two major influences that tend to bias scientists in ways that lead to this sort of thing. One is the fact that the government is a major source of funding for scientific research and it is necessary for many scientists to sell their research to the government in order to remain employed. Another is a yearning for the basic idealism of peace, security, and a return to a garden of eden.
A significant percentage of climate alarmist conclusions flow from these factors--the facts about NASA's James Hansen being particularly noteworthy--notwithstanding most reporters' unwillingness to depart from their apocalyptic pre-conceptions.

The Lancet authors acted un-scientifically from the start. So, surely most (but not Tim Lambert) can agree with Ed Morrissey's conclusions about the invasion deaths articles:
Scientific studies have to reveal their entire methodology in order for others to attempt to duplicate the study and its results. Without duplication, results cannot be confirmed, and most scientists reject them--unless they serve political rather than scientific ends.

In Burnham’s case, politics certainly played a large role in his work. . . It’s time to call Burnham’s work what it is: a piece of pseudo-scientific prostitution in service to a political john.
Still, some questions: It's been four-and-a-half years since the first study, two-and-a-half since the second, was published; what took the scientific accountability process so long? Is there any accountability for the "peers" who supposedly reviewed the studies before publication? And if the results of the Burnham investigation forever taint Lancet's mortality numbers, shouldn't we also quarantine the less-blatant, but still hidden from verification, Mann "hockey stick" analysis?

(via Instapundit)

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