Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Hash of It

I couldn't leave this comment in this Deltoid thread, so I am putting it here.

Kevin writes:

As for the kudos to people who have "fought this lonely fight", is it seemly to be congratulating yourself thusly? (I take it that accusing people of fraud counts as fighting; it certainly smacks of looking for a fight.) And what do you propose to do with the data? If you are right and the whole thing was cooked, do you suppose Burnham et al made such a hash of it that the data will incriminate them?

1) I am congratulating the people besides me who have sought to make this data public. Do you have a problem with those efforts? I have spent much time e-mailing (often cc'ing Tim Lambert) the authors trying to get the data. If you think that I am lying about that, you can check with Tim.

2) I propose to do several things with the data (and the computer code). First, replicate the results. (I will be presenting a paper at JSM on these and related issues.) Second, I want to examine the data for fraud. For starters, if you believe the data, you should believe that 2,000 civilians were killed in pre-war bombing. Details here. I will also look for anomalous patterns. What if one interviewer recorded 5 times as many deaths as any other? This might happen by chance, or it might be a sign of fraud by this one interviewer. Without the data, no one can know for sure.

When I was one of the few/only calling for data access and voicing suspicion of the raw data (not of Burnham sitting in Jordan inputting things on a computer), then you might just ignore me. When more than one person (Spagat, Hicks, et al) have concerns, then wouldn't you say that data access is important?

3) I do not think that Burnham is guilty of fraud. He seems an honest, well-intentioned guy. But how does he know that the pile of data that was handed to him is accurate? How do you know that it is accurate? Isn't it possible that one of the Iraqi interviews (out of laziness or malice or a desire to give the rich Americans answers that make them happy) provided inaccurate data?


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