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    Monday, March 05, 2007

    Opacity: The infamous Lancet paper on Iraqi death tolls gets more scrutiny, this time from The London Times as well as other researchers:

    One critic is Professor Michael Spagat, a statistician from Royal Holloway College, University of London. He and colleagues at Oxford University point to the possibility of “main street bias” – that people living near major thoroughfares are more at risk from car bombs and other urban menaces. Thus, the figures arrived at were likely to exceed the true number. The Lancet study authors initially told The Times that “there was no main street bias” and later amended their reply to “no evidence of a main street bias”.

    Professor Spagat says the Lancet paper contains misrepresentations of mortality figures suggested by other organisations, an inaccurate graph, the use of the word “casualties” to mean deaths rather than deaths plus injuries, and the perplexing finding that child deaths have fallen. Using the “three-to-one rule” – the idea that for every death, there are three injuries – there should be close to two million Iraqis seeking hospital treatment, which does not tally with hospital reports.

    “The authors ignore contrary evidence, cherry-pick and manipulate supporting evidence and evade inconvenient questions,” contends Professor Spagat, who believes the paper was poorly reviewed. “They published a sampling methodology that can overestimate deaths by a wide margin but respond to criticism by claiming that they did not actually follow the procedures that they stated.” The paper had “no scientific standing”. Did he rule out the possibility of fraud? “No.”

    And there's this:

    ...Another critic is Dr Madelyn Hsaio-Rei Hicks, of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, who specialises in surveying communities in conflict. In her letter to The Lancet, she pointed out that it was unfeasible for the Iraqi interviewing team to have covered 40 households in a day, as claimed. She wrote: “Assuming continuous interviewing for ten hours despite 55C heat, this allows 15 minutes per interview, including walking between households, obtaining informed consent and death certificates.”

    Does she think the interviews were done at all? Dr Hicks responds: “I’m sure some interviews have been done but until they can prove it I don’t see how they could have done the study in the way they describe.”

    Professor Burnham says the doctors worked in pairs and that interviews “took about 20 minutes”. The journal Nature, however, alleged last week that one of the Iraqi interviewers contradicts this. Dr Hicks says: : “I have started to suspect that they [the American researchers] don’t actually know what the interviewing team did. The fact that they can’t rattle off basic information suggests they either don’t know or they don’t care.”

    Most likely they don't care. They got the numbers they wanted and ran with them.

    posted by Sydney on 3/05/2007 07:52:00 PM 2 comments


    Even though the study was questioned in articles in Lancet and in Nature, when I googled the news, few MSM papers had picked up the possible fraud.
    The last time I ran into this was back in 1990 when the NEJM kept insisting that euthanasia in the Netherlands was "well regulated to prevent abuse". After six letters, I finally got Dr. Relman to say that the six articles were "opinions" and did not need scientific validation for opinions.
    So, is the Lancet article science or "opinion"?

    By Blogger boinky, at 1:31 AM  

    It was opinion buoyed by bad science. But, it doesn't matter to the authors. Forever and ever more, one will read about the 600,000 Iraqis killed as a direct result of the invasion. It's a meme now, and will remain as such until the MSM trumpets the deficiencies of the study from the rooftops, which they won't.

    The really sad thing about this is that there are an awful lot of people that think it's okay to lie if the ends justify the means. I just didn't expect that from scientists. They're supposed to let the numbers talk- unfortunately, in this case, the scientists are telling the numbers what to say.

    By Anonymous danie, at 1:48 AM  

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