Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Math Stats

How Often Do Economists Commit Misconduct? 305

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the easier-this-way dept.
schwit1 (797399) writes A survey of professional academic economists finds that a large percentage are quite willing to cheat or fake data to get the results they want. From the paper's abstract: "This study reports the results of a survey of professional, mostly academic economists about their research norms and scientific misbehavior. Behavior such as data fabrication or plagiarism are (almost) unanimously rejected and admitted by less than 4% of participants. Research practices that are often considered 'questionable,' e.g., strategic behavior while analyzing results or in the publication process, are rejected by at least 60%. Despite their low justifiability, these behaviors are widespread. Ninety-four percent report having engaged in at least one unaccepted research practice."

That less than 4% engage in "data fabrication or plagiarism" might seem low, but it is a terrible statistic . ... 40% admit to doing what they agree are "questionable" research practices, while 94% admit to committing "at least one unaccepted research practice." In other words, almost none of these academic economists can be trusted in the slightest. As the paper notes, "these behaviors are widespread.""
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

How Often Do Economists Commit Misconduct?

Comments Filter:
  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:27PM (#47356393)
    Depending on what policy a politician wants to push he can cite either traditional economics or Keynesian economics as part of his speel to push a bill. Economists are conflicting in their advice. Sure you can make a real good case for aiming for a surplus because that is good for the nation in the long run. But a lot of politicians are in it for their own personal gain in the short run. They'll borrow from the debt, have a spending party that feels good for a short run, but put the nation in a worse state for the long run. It is unsustainable and only benefits the elite who get crony deals.

    Also scientists are supposed to be pretty unbiased, but the marketing people who use their unbiased data will take it out of context. A marketing person can tell you to put radioactive waste on your face because science has said it gives you a radiant glow. You think I joke, but I saw Lucky Charms touted as a health food on tv some years ago because a science study said oats are good for the heart and Lucky Charms has oat pieces. On top of that, it's not hard think there are times where scientists also get pressure from the corporation funding their science to give them the results they want. Just like economists might get pressure too.
  • Re:Political/Moral (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:29PM (#47356405) Homepage Journal

    Never trust an economist, until you've checked his math. Even then, you don't trust him. You've got to understand economics so well that you can recognize his base assumptions from his math, or you're still not qualified to check his math.

    Remember the collapse from the housing bubble burst? Who predicted that? Precious few men and women knew it was coming, and damned near none had any idea how bad it could be.

    I participated in a discussion three years before it burst. My take then was, "I don't know how bad it can be, but it sure as hell won't be pretty!" I'm not even an economist, but I knew the shit would hit the fan. All those experts are either complete, utter fools - or they were outright lying to all of us!

  • by Sean (422) on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:29PM (#47356407)

    Who purchases the services of economists? Who consumes their work product?

    A lot of economists are paid by central banks one way or another:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... [huffingtonpost.com]

    One useful tactic for managing the economy is manipulating public opinion. Especially the opinion of those members of the public who manage huge quantities of other people's money. The job of the economist then is not necessarily to discover the true state of the economy, but to convince others that is it in a certain state in order to influence their behavior.

  • Re:Political/Moral (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @10:53PM (#47356583)

    > You've got to understand economics so well that you can recognize his base assumptions from his math, or you're still not qualified to check his math.

    Fundamentally economics is the study of human psychology. At some point it goes beyond the kind of math that you can "check."

    > Remember the collapse from the housing bubble burst? Who predicted that?

    That wasn't really a question of economics more so outright cheating/lying by the bond rating agencies.

  • Re:Political/Moral (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pepty (1976012) on Monday June 30, 2014 @11:37PM (#47356845)
    Yup, but I don't think any were worried that suddenly looking for and then telling the truth would burst the bubble. They just knew that promotions, endowed chairs, year end bonuses, etc, were not going to be handed to the pessimists saying "you know that thing we're doing that's making all the money? Stop it. Right now."
  • by raymorris (2726007) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @12:57AM (#47357319)

    > Remember the collapse from the housing bubble burst? Who predicted that? Precious few men and women knew it was coming, and damned near none had any idea how bad it could be.

    That would be pretty much the entire Republican party. Here's Ron Paul explaining exactly what would happen, in 2002. This is six years before the collapse:

    http://www.ronpaul.com/2008-09... [ronpaul.com]

  • by riverat1 (1048260) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @04:23AM (#47358121)

    It's worth noting a pattern of "adjusting" the data that predominately favors the leading theories. That's some seriously questionable stuff in an field. Fortunately for the climate change guys, you can just ignore the ground station data entirely and still have a reasonable conversation about this stuff.

    That's still judging the adjustments on your perception of bias by the scientists. Read and understand the papers that describe the reasons and means for the adjustments. Then we can have a reasonable conversation.

    I'm far, far more concerned with constant tuning of the models to meet the data then vice versa. That may sound backwards, but ask anyone who's made a model to predict the stock market based on fitting his model to all historical data how that worked out. Descriptive power is not a significant reason to expect predictive power from a hypothesis (necessary, but very far from sufficient). And every time you tinker, you reset the clock on knowing if you have any predictive power.

    It takes many years to test the predictive power of a climate model. 15? 20? Depends on who you ask, but the better part of a career. The models from 15 years ago failed pretty hard, prediction-wise. We're a long way from anyone having the right to be arrogant about this stuff, and every time someone adjusts their model to make it match observations, that's one more model reset, one less chance to move from hand-wavy descriptivism to a tested theory.

    It sounds as if you think climate models are merely numerical exercises in curve fitting rather than models of the actual physical interactions that occur in the climate. The tuning that occurs is adjustments to the physics involved. They never just look at the real world temperature records or precipitation records and say "Let's tweak this to make it fit the curve better." Climate models are projecting 30 year trends so it takes that long to totally test them. You don't need to worry about the adjustments to models because you still have the projections the model made that can be compared to what happened over the 30 year period. So far models are accurate within the expectations the modelers have for them.

  • by Captain Hook (923766) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @06:07AM (#47358419)

    I'm not sure you understood the GP's point. In fact you seem to have interpreted it completely backwards.

    Allowing the companies making the loans to go bust, rather than trying to protect them by not allowing Student Loans to be cleared by bankruptcy is the attenuation that you are looking for. It's sends a clear message to other companies loaning money that there are risks and that they should be filtering potential customers.

  • by khallow (566160) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @06:40AM (#47358485)

    That's still judging the adjustments on your perception of bias by the scientists. Read and understand the papers that describe the reasons and means for the adjustments. Then we can have a reasonable conversation.

    This is rubbish. Economics demonstrates that when there are high stakes involved, some scientists will prostitute themselves, insuring that their conclusions meet the desires of their masters. And they have no trouble coming up with plausible excuses such as your above "reasons and means for the adjustments".

    I believe there is a strong correlation between economic ignorance and the belief that we must do something about climate change. The first paragraph is part of the reason why.

    When people actually have experience with economics, they realize two things. First, that there actually are scientifically valid aspects to economics, such as the "law" of supply and demand, which are just as solidly demonstrated even by the standards of say, physics.

    Second, that economics is not just frequently, but routinely and normally overwhelmed by conflicts of interest. There are way too many cases of things assumed to work merely because it is in the interest of the relevant parties to act on that assumption.

    It sounds as if you think climate models are merely numerical exercises in curve fitting rather than models of the actual physical interactions that occur in the climate.

    And you should be worried about that as well.

    So far models are accurate within the expectations the modelers have for them.

    My expectations count more to me than the modelers' expectations. They aren't accurate to within my expectations.

    Economics has a huge problem here in spades. Expectations are a conveniently amorphous thing. I doubt that there are many economic models (most particularly, the blatantly dishonest ones) for which modeler expectations aren't being met. That doesn't make the model not actively baneful.

  • by dywolf (2673597) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @08:03AM (#47358791)

    economists are not scientists.
    economics is not a science as we commonly accept the word.
    it is a behavioural science, which by nature incorporates a large measure of unpredictibilty and irrationality, because it by default deals with human behaviour.

    As for GW: Not only have the models successfully reproduce all historical data since 1900, but the actual results of the past several years have continually been within the predictions of the models. So I dont know what your expectations are, but we've covered this many times and I expect your expectations are neither realistic, nor relevent. They are accurate to actual climate scientists expectations (though they naturally continually work to refine them, to narrow that margin of error), and you aren't one.

  • Model utility (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sjbe (173966) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @08:31AM (#47358917)

    Any theory of economics that assumes things dramatically at odds with reality (eg rational actors, perfect information, fair behavior, etc) is utterly useless when applied to reality.

    Incorrect. Many models, including many that have justifiably won Nobel prizes, are extremely useful with the caveat that you need to know and understand the underlying assumptions and limits to the model. You get into trouble when you start using models to predict things that do not fit the underlying conditions of the model. It's ok to presume rational actors and perfect information for a model so long as you don't use that model in conditions where those things don't apply.

    Unfortunately sometimes the best models we currently have aren't robust enough to account for all the real world conditions so we necessarily use them in ways that might not be ideal. For instance most stock options are priced using the Black-Scholes equation [wikipedia.org] which won a Nobel prize in 1997. It's brilliant and hugely insightful but it has a large number of assumptions [wikipedia.org] which do not apply to many of the securities that are priced with the model. This doesn't make it useless but it does mean that anyone who uses it for securities that do not fit the assumption profile are taking on additional risk - sometimes substantial amounts [wikipedia.org] of risk.

    Thankfully physics has gotten rather far beyond such toy models, hopefully economics will get there too.

    Most of physics doesn't involve chaotic systems and human behavior. You're comparing apples to oranges here. I've got a masters degree in finance but my undergraduate degree is in engineering with a minor in applied physics. I've worked as a researcher and as someone who builds financial models. Building and testing models in physics is in a lot of ways hugely more straightforward. I don't think many people here really appreciate how sophisticated a lot of financial models are. But the systems being modeled aren't so easy (for lack of a better word) to tease apart. Predicting economic outcomes is rather like predicting the weather if human emotions could cause hurricanes. It's a chaotic system with imperfect information and irrational actors.

The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it. -- E. Hubbard

Working...