“The following needs to be an immutable law of journalism: when someone with no track record comes into a field claiming to be able to do a job many times better for a fraction of the cost, the burden of proof needs to shift quickly and decisively onto the one making the claim. The reporter simply has to assume the claim is false until substantial evidence is presented to the contrary.”

Mark Palko writes: The following needs to be an immutable law of journalism: when someone with no track record comes into a field claiming to be able to do a job many times better for a fraction of the cost, the burden of proof needs to shift quickly and decisively onto the one making the claim. The reporter simply has to assume the claim is false until substantial evidence is presented to the contrary. Yup. This is related to advice I give to young researchers giving presentations or writing research papers: 1. Describe the problem you have that existing methods can’t solve. 2. Show how your new method solves the problem. 3. Explain how your method works. 4. Explain why, if your idea is so great, how come all the people who came before you were not already doing it.…
Original Post: “The following needs to be an immutable law of journalism: when someone with no track record comes into a field claiming to be able to do a job many times better for a fraction of the cost, the burden of proof needs to shift quickly and decisively onto the one making the claim. The reporter simply has to assume the claim is false until substantial evidence is presented to the contrary.”

Incentive to cheat

Joseph Delaney quotes Matthew Yglesias writing this: But it is entirely emblematic of America’s post-Reagan treatment of business regulation. What a wealthy and powerful person faced with a legal impediment to moneymaking is supposed to do is work with a lawyer to devise clever means of subverting the purpose of the law. If you end up getting caught, the attempted subversion will be construed as a mitigating (it’s a gray area!) rather than aggravating factor. Your punishment will probably be light and will certainly not involve anything more than money. You already have plenty of money, and your plan is to get even more. So why not? Yglesias’s quote is about Donald Trump but the issue is more general than that; for example here’s Delaney quoting a news report by Matt Egan regarding a banking scandal: These payouts are on…
Original Post: Incentive to cheat

Benefits and limitations of randomized controlled trials: I agree with Deaton and Cartwright

My discussion of “Understanding and misunderstanding randomized controlled trials,” by Angus Deaton and Nancy Cartwright, for Social Science & Medicine: I agree with Deaton and Cartwright that randomized trials are often overrated. There is a strange form of reasoning we often see in science, which is the idea that a chain of reasoning is as strong as its strongest link. The social science and medical research literature is full of papers in which a randomized experiment is performed, a statistically significant comparison is found, and then story time begins, and continues, and continues—as if the rigor from the randomized experiment somehow suffuses through the entire analysis. Here are some reasons why the results of a randomized trial cannot be taken as representing a general discovery: 1. Measurement. A causal effect on a surrogate endpoint does not necessarily map to an…
Original Post: Benefits and limitations of randomized controlled trials: I agree with Deaton and Cartwright

Nudge nudge, say no more

Nudge nudge, say no more Posted by Andrew on 8 January 2018, 9:17 am Alan Finlayson puts it well when he writes of “the tiresome business of informing and persuading people replaced by psychological techniques designed to ‘nudge’ us in the right direction.” I think that’s about right. Nudging makes sense as part of a package that already includes information and persuasion. For example, tell us that smoking causes cancer, persuade us to reduce or quit, then also provide nudges that make smoking more difficult and make non-smoking more comfortable. But to try to nudge people without informing and persuading them, that seems like a mistake.
Original Post: Nudge nudge, say no more

The problem of media concentration/deregulation “is usually treated as a series of unrelated problems, much like a cocaine addict who complains about his drug problem, bankruptcy, divorce, and encounters with loan sharks, but who never makes a causal connection between the items on the list”

Palko writes: There’s a huge problem that people aren’t talking about nearly enough. . . . Think about all of the recent news stories that are about or are a result of concentration/deregulation of media power and the inevitable consequences. Obviously, net neutrality falls under this category. So does the role that Facebook, and, to a lesser extent, Twitter played in the misinformation that influenced the 2016 election. The role of the platform monopolies in the ongoing implosion of digital journalism has been widely discussed by commentators like Josh Marshall. The Time Warner/AT&T merger has gotten coverage primarily due to the ethically questionable involvement of Donald Trump, with very little being said about the numerous other concerns. Outside of a few fan boys excited over the possibility of seeing the X-Men fight the Avengers, almost no one’s talking about Disney’s…
Original Post: The problem of media concentration/deregulation “is usually treated as a series of unrelated problems, much like a cocaine addict who complains about his drug problem, bankruptcy, divorce, and encounters with loan sharks, but who never makes a causal connection between the items on the list”

Yes, Virginia, it can be rational to vote!

Yes, Virginia, it can be rational to vote! Posted by Andrew on 19 December 2017, 5:48 pm Carl Shulman correctly thought I’d be interested in this news item, “A single vote leads to a rare tie for control of the Virginia legislature”: A Republican seat flipped Democratic in a wild recount Tuesday – with the Democrat winning by a single vote – creating a rare 50-50 tie between the parties in the House of Delegates and refashioning the political landscape in Richmond. Democrat Shelly Simonds emerged from the recount as the apparent winner in the 94th District of the House of Delegates, seizing the seat from Republican incumbent David Yancey. . . . The final tally: 11,608 for Simonds to 11,607 for Yancey. As Edlin, Kaplan, and I wrote, it can be rational to vote, as long as you’re doing so…
Original Post: Yes, Virginia, it can be rational to vote!

Ready Money

Richard Reeves writes: Most of the people on the highest rung [which he elsewhere defines as the highest fifth of the income distribution] in America are in denial about their privilege. The American myth of meritocracy allows them to attribute their position to their brilliance and diligence, rather than to luck or a rigged system. . . . upper-middle-class Americans believe they are operating in a meritocracy (a belief that allows them to feel entitled to their winnings); on the other hand, they constantly engage in antimeritocratic behavior in order to give their own children a leg up. Reeves appears to have a lamentably common misunderstanding of meritocracy. James Flynn explained it well, ten years ago: The case against meritocracy can be put psychologically: (a) The abolition of materialist-elitist values is a prerequisite for the abolition of inequality and privilege;…
Original Post: Ready Money

“A mixed economy is not an economic abomination or even a regrettably unavoidable political necessity but a natural absorbing state,” and other notes on “Whither Science?” by Danko Antolovic

So. I got this email one day, promoting a book that came with the following blurb: Whither Science?, by Danko Antolovic, is a series of essays that explore some of the questions facing modern science. A short read at only 41 pages, Whither Science? looks into the fundamental questions about the purposes, practices and future of science. As a global endeavor, which influences all of contemporary life, science is still a human creation with historical origins and intellectual foundations. And like all things human, it has its faults, which must be accounted for. It sounded like this guy might be a crank, but they sent me a free copy so I took a look. I read the book, and I liked it. It’s written in an unusual style, kinda like what you might expect from someone with a physics/chemistry background…
Original Post: “A mixed economy is not an economic abomination or even a regrettably unavoidable political necessity but a natural absorbing state,” and other notes on “Whither Science?” by Danko Antolovic

Using Stan to improve rice yields

Using Stan to improve rice yields Posted by Andrew on 7 November 2017, 9:03 am Matt Espe writes: Here is a new paper citing Stan and the rstanarm package. Yield gap analysis of US rice production systems shows opportunities for improvement. Matthew B. Espe, Kenneth G. Cassman, Haishun Yang, Nicolas Guilpart, Patricio Grassini, Justin Van Wart, Merle Anders, Donn Beighley, Dustin Harrell, Steve Linscombe, Kent McKenzie, Randall Mutters, Lloyd T. Wilson, Bruce A. Linquist. Field Crops Research. Volume 196, September 2016, Pages 276–283. Many thanks to everyone on the development team for some excellent tools! I’ve not read the paper, but, hey, if Stan can improve U.S. rice yields by a factor of 1.5, that’s cool. Then all our research will have been worth it.
Original Post: Using Stan to improve rice yields

Whipsaw

Kevin Lewis points to a research article by Lawton Swan, John Chambers, Martin Heesacker, and Sondre Nero, “How should we measure Americans’ perceptions of socio-economic mobility,” which reports effects of question wording on surveys on an important topic in economics. They replicated two studies: Each (independent) research team had prompted similar groups of respondents to estimate the percentage of Americans born into the bottom of the income distribution who improved their socio-economic standing by adulthood, yet the two teams reached ostensibly irreconcilable conclusions: that Americans tend to underestimate (Chambers et al.) and overestimate (Davidai & Gilovich) the true rate of upward social mobility in the U.S. There are a few challenges here, and I think the biggest is that the questions being asked of survey respondents are so abstract. We’re talking about people who might not be able to name…
Original Post: Whipsaw