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Math Stats

How Often Do Economists Commit Misconduct? 305

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.""
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How Often Do Economists Commit Misconduct?

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  • Re:Political/Moral (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bob@@@hotmail...com> on Monday June 30, 2014 @11:30PM (#47356811) Journal

    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!

    They were lying.

    Like many aspects of the DotCom bubble before it, the housing bubble was thoroughly well understood and predicted by pretty much every observer (and discussed as such by those with integrity). The only people who said otherwise were those who were participating for their own benefit, and who well understood the risk to themselves of prematurely bursting their giant Ponzi scheme.

    Similar liars will crawl out of the woodwork to pump up the next bubble too, I'm sure.

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

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @11:46PM (#47356891)

    And it will always be better politically for the government to be just as surprised as everyone else when things go belly up

    No.... politically speaking: it's in the government's best interest to take any action possible to delay the next downcycle in the economy, kick the can down the road JUST A LITTLE BIT ---- just a few more years, so the collapse happens when the next guy is elected (preferably a candidate from the opposite party: so they will get blamed), even if doing so INCREASES the ultimate amount of damage, strife, and pain, the people will feel during the next down cycle. Politics actually favors increasing the total amount of pain, as long as the politicians are able to cowardly delay it, so it doesn't happen during their term, therefore, they escape the voter outrage over the issue.

    This is why there will always be enough votes to raise the debt ceiling and keep the US government spending.

    Would it even be ethical to tell a truth that would cause an economic disaster?

    If mere knowledge of economic facts would be at risk of causing a disaster, then the disaster is practically already a certainty, because that truth is inevitably going to eventually be discovered.

    The sooner a bubble or distortion is discovered, the sooner the correction begins, the smaller correction begins, and the quicker the recovery: assuming there is no government interference, which almost always tends to create new distortions and slow down the recovery.

    It is natural that the economy operates in periodic cycles of prosperity and recision. Government-distortion tends to attempt to distort the cycles by delaying recessions, and ultimately --- increasing their magnitude.

  • Re:Political/Moral (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @01:14AM (#47357397) Journal

    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.

    A bunch of people predicted it. They were ignored.
    "Irrational exuberance" Greenspan called it

    Here's a website devoted to documenting the people who predicted the bubble
    http://investorhome.com/predicted.htm [investorhome.com]
    They even quote Warren Buffet calling derivatives "time bombs."

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Tuesday July 01, 2014 @08:12AM (#47358833)

    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.

    You could say the same about almost any profession involving predictive models, particularly those involving human behavior or chaotic systems. (economics involves both) I used to make statistical models of factory operations. I had a manager once ask me to list the assumptions in my model. He asked me to stop when I got to the third page of (single spaced) assumptions built into the model. As the saying goes, "All models are wrong. Some models are useful". Plenty of economic models are useful as long as you understand and respect the assumptions in the model.

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

    I can introduce you to people who were publicly predicting it as far back as 2003. People I know personally, some of whom are economics professors and some others who are investment managers. They couldn't tell you when the bubble would burst or precisely how bad the fallout would be but they could tell you it was VERY likely and they could give you a pretty good overview of the range of possible outcomes.

    Precious few men and women knew it was coming, and damned near none had any idea how bad it could be.

    Not true. Quite a few people including plenty of economists suspected some sort of bubble burst was coming and they could tell you the possible range of outcomes. The problem was that it was damn near impossible to predict WHEN it would burst and as a result it was impossible to predict the collateral damage and fallout. It's also impossible to predict specific decisions. The government could have chosen to bail out Lehman Brothers but for various reasons that seemed good at the time chose not to. (mostly due to wanting to avoid moral hazard [wikipedia.org]) It's difficult, bordering on impossible, to predict specific actions with that level of specificity. Most economic models are statistical and tend to break down when you get to specific decisions. Events like the crash in 2008-9 are chaotic events and thus are very hard to predict with great specificity ahead of time since you don't know the starting conditions even if everything afterwards behaves rationally (which never happens).

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford