Monday, January 14, 2008


With five posts over the past few days (99 in the past year; 156 in total) drawing more than 400 comments, Lancet Iraq is a hot topic for truth-bending scientist Tim Lambert. With that many comments spread over five threads it's damned difficult for a casual reader to keep up with what's been going on so I've decided to provide a quick overview.

Before looking at comments let's dispose of a bit of silliness from Lambert, in which he attempts to silence those who allege Lancet Iraq bias owing to the funding involvement of George Soros. Lambert argues that this line of thinking also discredits pretty much anything on Iraq produced by the pro-war Murdoch media. This is, of course, a bogus comparison. Hands up everyone who trusts journalists to produce factually correct writing on any topic, much less Iraq. The Lancet Iraq studies are on the other hand meant to be factually correct scientific products. Now I don't know that Soros helped fund Lancet Iraq hoping to skew the results but his involvement certainly raises bias concerns. And with many of those involved with Lancet Iraq known to be anything but neutral, the studies are looking increasingly iffy.

Right, back to comments. Lancet Iraq critic David Kane politely but persistently stands his ground while copping heaps of crap from Lambert and his one-eyed commenters – like at Tim Blair's, Lambert's comments section is something of a meat grinder; but unlike Blair's commenters, Lambert's take themselves very seriously and are neither clever nor funny. Anyway, in the first of the five most recent Lancet Iraq posts – on Neil Munro's National Journal article – Lambert invites a stoush with Kane:
To my knowledge, David Kane has never conducted a door-to-door survey in Iraq or anywhere else. Why is his uninformed opinion presented by Munro? Oh right, he said something that suited Munro's agenda.
Lack of supporting data. The survey teams failed to collect the fraud-preventing demographic data that pollsters routinely gather.
As noted earlier, this is an outright fabrication by Munro.
Kane responds (my bold):
But this is true! I have examined the data. Have you, Tim?
For background, it is standard in a survey to collect demographic data so that you can check that your survey sample matches up with the population, especially in a case in which you are worried about inexperienced interviewers. So, for each household, you should tabulate something like:

1) male, age 46 2) male, age 20 3) female, age 10 ...

Sex and age are the minimum background demographic variables that you should collect. Whatever the survey document says, the Lancet interviewers did not do this.
Kane repeats this many times. Lambert responds with a Roberts quote affirming the demographic data were indeed collected. Meanwhile in another thread Kane writes:
The debate here is whether or not demographic household data (specifically the ages of each member of the household) was collected. [Lancet] Author Shannon Doocy told me it was not. Tim quotes Les Roberts saying it was. Someone is mistaken!
Lambert responds by calling Kane a liar:
David Kane: "Author Shannon Doocy told me it was not."

Perhaps you could provide a quote from the email?

Consider this scenario: Ages have been removed from the data set given to David Kane to protect the privacy of the respondents. Kane tells Munro that ages were not collected. When called on this, he invents an email from Doocy.
Kane calmly replies:
Funny! Unfortunately, I do not like to quote from someone's e-mail without their permission. Fortunately, in this case I don't have to. I e-mailed Doocy to confirm (after all, I could have been wrong about this) and cc'd Tim. She replied and cc'd Tim. No age information was collected for the households.This means:

1) Munro is not guilty of "fabrication." Tim owes him a correction and apology.

2) Roberts has been lying (on more than one occasion?) about this. Why?

3) It is very hard to confirm that the L2 sample is representative without age information. Was there fraud? Without age information, it is harder to tell than it should have been.
Lambert is now confused:
Since I have contradictory information from two of the Lancet authors, I've asked Les Roberts for a clarification.
Hey wait a minute, Kane corresponds with the Lancet authors, why doesn't he ask Roberts about the age data? Simple, Kane says Roberts told him to "not just to stop e-mailing him, but to stop e-mailing any of the Lancet authors." Jeez, some of these science types are downright secretive. And how silly is it for Les Roberts to post at Deltoid but not to field any of the comments leaving Lambert to do it for him. This creates the ludicrous situation where Lambert has to email Roberts to clear up questions raised in comments.

Roberts eventually responded to Lambert's email about age data:
I was wrong! ... I was mistaken when I spoke to Steven Moore, and I was mistaken when I wrote to you.
This pretty much forced Lambert to correct his post:
Correction: I was wrong. While the plan was to collect ages (hence the instructions above), during the survey this was dropped to speed things up. Les Roberts explains here. My apologies to Neil Munro.
Lambert doesn't like admitting he's wrong so he placed the correction below the fold on the oldest of the five Lancet posts where the fewest readers will see it. In another post Lambert gets stuck right into Kane for questioning age data collection and rubbishes his request that Lambert seek clarification from Roberts:
I'm not going to waste [Roberts] time just so you can call him a liar yet again. The claim that they didn't record it is a fabrication. I suspect that you are the one who fabricated it, and Munro is just your dupe.
Well, Kane was right about the missing age data but Lambert doesn't acknowledge Lancet Iraq coauthor Doocy's email until a reader prompts:
Tim, can you tell us how Doocy responded to the email you were cc'd on?
Lambert's response is rather muted:
Doocy's email was:
You are correct, age was not collected for all household residents.
That's the closest Lambert gets to correcting in this thread but he should correct here because the missing age data was discussed at length.

It should be obvious to anyone with even half a brain that Lambert's main aim is scoring political points and he couldn't care less about the truth. Funny how Lambert and Roberts have teamed up, now ain't it?


Anonymous the_real_jeffs said...

It seems to me that Lambert is more of an attention whore than a scientist. Else while keep on pushing the Lambert drivel when reality keeps on smacking him in the face?

11:48 PM  
Anonymous Annabelle said...

It looks like all the spinning plates Lambert has set in motion are starting to fall and break.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Jack Lacton said...

Tim Lambert is living, breathing proof of the maxim that truth is not a primary value of the left.

6:23 PM  

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