16 Jan 2009 12:44 - 16 Jan 2009 12:50#167893by Anton Gramscescu
Wow. What a completely irresponsible study and summation of results.
To quote specifically from page 5 of the report:
When we restricted the sample to countries outside the former Soviet Union, we noted that greater progress in privatisation was associated with a neutral or favourable effect on mortality rates (emphasis mine) from 1991 to 2002, unlike in countries of the former Soviet Union
Which suggests that maybe, just maybe, privatization has nothing to do with the jump in mortality rates and that there are even larger historical and social processes at work here.
While the authors control for GDP, they don't control for *trends* in GDP. These economies (particularly Russia's) were collapsing before privatization occurred. I know they can't do a real counterfactual, but use some common sense for Christ's sake - GDP was already falling at something like 10% per year: absent privatization, would health outcomes have remained constant? Would they, fuck.
Controlling for the age of population might have been useful, too. Might the lack of a jump in death rates in the central asian republics have had something to do with the fact that their populations were younger rather than that they weren't privatising?
I don't think so. Just looking at the lead author's CV suggests he was a bit out of his depth trying to use a single dataset like that to draw inferences about a very short and chaotic period of time without a particularly solid grounding in either economics or soviet history.
The bigger scandal (to me, anyway) is that the Lancet published it. But since their normal peer-reviewers wouldn't have a whole lot of grounding in either economic or history either, you can sort of see how it might have slipped through.
11 Dec 2012 22:34 - 11 Dec 2012 22:40#740548by antoine polus
Evariste Euler Gauss wrote:
Is it common for sociological research even in the most prestigious universities to be this hopelessly flawed?
Can't speak for sociological research, but in my field the chance of shit research coming out of a prestigious university is just as great as the chance of shit research coming out of a lesser known university.
The main difference is that the people from prestigious universities get taken seriously and get their stuff in top journals. And being in top journals makes them prestigious. It's self-sustaining.
I've learned to take "Nature" and "Oxford" with pinches of salt.
The real jewels are papers that, despite being in moderate journals and written by people at backwater universities, manage to get loads of citations.