JOHN LOTT….THE SAGA CONTINUES….One of

JOHN LOTT….THE SAGA CONTINUES….One of the interesting notes at the bottom of Kieran Healy’s post about John Lott yesterday was this:

One point came up which I haven’t seen mentioned before: if Lott did the survey while at the University of Chicago, why didn’t he go through their Institutional Review Board? Federal Law says you can’t conduct any research involving human subjects without first obtaining IRB approval. Does the Chicago IRB have any record of Lott going through Human Subjects review? Has he given any reason why he didn’t?

This struck me as peculiar, but Kieran confirmed via email that he meant what he said: this stuff is important, and survey work does count as human subject research. “You can get yourself (and worse, your whole academic unit) into serious shit if you don’t do the paperwork.”

Today Ted Barlow makes the same point:

For my undergraduate thesis, we interviewed less than 50 participants and produced no less than two boxes of paper. We had to have our methodology reviewed, because we were working with human participants….

So is there any record of Lott getting permission from his IRB?

And ArchPundit makes another point that I’ve been noodling about myself: surveys are very time consuming things. I’ve done lots of telephone survey work, and if you’re not working with professionals using predictive dialing equipment (which he wasn’t), you’re lucky to be able to make 20 calls per hour. In fact, that would be pretty optimistic.

So: 2,424 respondents means probably around 10,000 phone calls. That means 500 hours of calls. I doubt that students could manage to fit in more than 10 hours a week of calls, so this means at least 50 man weeks of phone calls, and that doesn’t even count all the work of transcribing the results into a statistical package, doing the weighting he claims to have done, and then producing the final results. And all of that just vanished into thin air?

And don’t forget: Lott originally sourced the 98% number to someone else and then changed his mind only in 1999 when it turned out that he had misinterpreted the survey results he was using. He had never mentioned doing a survey of his own until then. What’s more, Lott’s first reference to the 98% number was in early 1997, well before his survey could have been finished.

This is nonsense, and the sample weighting is nonsense too. In fact, the whole thing sounds like a tissue of lies from beginning to end. Knowing what we now know about his obsessive and deceptive “Mary Rosh” persona, can anyone possibly read James Lindgren’s extremely detailed investigation into this affair and conclude anything else?

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation