Blogger Echidne caught a study by the British organization Demos which was reported in Newsweek as “Half of Misogyny on Twitter Comes From Women.” But, as Echidne points out, there’s no study to report:
I [Echidne] then e-mailed Demos to ask for the url of the study. The rapid response I received (thanks, Demos!) told me — and here comes the fun part! — that there IS NO WRITTEN REPORT THAT PEOPLE COULD ANALYZE.
That is bullshit. Absolute bullshit. . . .
That there is no report does not imply that the results are incorrect, only that we cannot tell if they are correct or incorrect. But a written report is very important. The reason that researchers write their studies up is so that others can see what they did, how they did it, and also so that others can judge whether the study was done right or not.
I agree. I’m reminded of the gay gene tabloid hype, where results presented in a 10-minute conference talk were promoted all around the world, without there being any paper describing the data and methods.
Or the Wall Street Journal article that reported on a claimed survey of the super-rich for which no documentation was provided and which we have no reason to trust.
Hey, journalists: Don’t get fooled. Demand to see the study! I think it would work.
Next time someone sends you a press release and you’re thinking of running the story, first contact the organization and ask to see the written report. If they say they don’t have a report, it’s simple: Either don’t run the study, or run a report that is appropriately dripping with skepticism, including the phrase “for which the organization refused to supply a written report” as many times as possible.