Sunday, March 27, 2011

Laundering studies

A nice piece from EduWonk on how studies get "laundered" when some credulous / differentially not competent person at NYT or WaPo is unable to sort out, and ignore (or even, perish the thought, call out) bad studies, which then become reputable because they have been discussed in a major newspaper.

The discussion of achieving "mixed evidence" by vote counting in which weak studies receive the same weight as strong ones is also useful.

EduWonk presents the issues in terms of the literature and policy discussion surrounding Teach for America, but the same issues apply in nearly every area of policy-related empirical work. They result from a combination of advocacy groups producing output that looks like scholarly research but is not with newspaper reporters, columnists, bloggers and others who lack the quantitative skills and context knowledge required to correctly weigh the evidence.

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