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Archive of posts filed under the Sociology category.

“Why bioRxiv can’t be the Central Service”

I followed this link to Jordan Anaya’s page and there to this post on biology preprint servers. Anyway, as a fan of preprint servers I appreciate Anaya’s point-by-point discussion of why one particular server, bioRxiv (which I’d never heard of before but I guess is popular in biology), can’t do what some people want it […]

I disagree with Tyler Cowen regarding a so-called lack of Bayesianism in religious belief

Tyler Cowen writes: I am frustrated by the lack of Bayesianism in most of the religious belief I observe. I’ve never met a believer who asserted: “I’m really not sure here. But I think Lutheranism is true with p = .018, and the next strongest contender comes in only at .014, so call me Lutheran.” […]

“5 minutes? Really?”

Bob writes: Daniel says this issue is an easy 5-minute fix. In my ongoing role as wet blanket, let’s be realistic. It’s sort of like saying it’s an hour from here to Detroit because that’s how long the plane’s in the air. Nothing is a 5 minute fix (door to door) for Stan and […]

Apply for the Earth Institute Postdoc at Columbia and work with us!

The Earth Institute at Columbia brings in several postdocs each year—it’s a two-year gig—and some of them have been statisticians (recently, Kenny Shirley, Leontine Alkema, Shira Mitchell, and Milad Kharratzadeh). We’re particularly interested in statisticians who have research interests in development and public health. It’s fine—not just fine, but ideal—if you are interested in statistical […]

Automated Inference on Criminality Using High-tech GIGO Analysis

Yee Whye Teh writes: You might be interested in this article. My reply was that this is just a big joke, one more bit of hype over a bunch of correlations. Lots of obvious problems with this paper, and it’s too bad that journalists fell for it. And, as an MIT grad, I’m particularly sad […]

“Cheerleading with an agenda: how the press covers science”

Yarden Katz writes: I thought you might be interested in this new (critical) perspective on science journalism: Cheerleading with an agenda: how the press covers science. It’s a topic far less urgent than the election (but related to the broader press failures that have been very visible in politics). My reply: This is an excellent […]

Weisburd’s paradox in criminology: it can be explained using type M errors

This one (with Torbjørn Skardhamar, and Mikko Aaltonen) goes out to all the criminologists out there. . . . Here’s the story: Simple calculations seem to show that larger studies should have higher statistical power, but empirical meta-analyses of published work in criminology have found zero or weak correlations between sample size and estimated statistical […]

Maybe this paper is a parody, maybe it’s a semibluff

Peter DeScioli writes: I was wondering if you saw this paper about people reading Harry Potter and then disliking Trump, attached. It seems to fit the shark attack genre. In this case, the issue seems to be judging causation from multiple regression with observational data, assuming that control variables are enough to narrow down to […]

American Democracy and its Critics

I just happened to come across this article of mine from 2014: it’s a review published in the American Journal of Sociology of the book “American Democracy,” by Andrew Perrin. My review begins: Actually-existing democracy tends to have support in the middle of the political spectrum but is criticized on the two wings. I like […]

It seemed to me that most destruction was being done by those who could not choose between the two

Amateurs, dilettantes, hacks, cowboys, clones — Nick Cave [Note from Dan 11Sept: I wanted to leave some clear air after the StanCon reminder, so I scheduled this post for tomorrow. Which means you get two posts (one from me, one from Andrew) on this in two days. That’s probably more than the gay face study deserves.] […]

God, goons, and gays: 3 quick takes

Next open blog spots are in April but all these are topical so I thought I’d throw them down right now for ya. 1. Alex Durante writes: I noticed that this study on how Trump supporters respond to racial cues is getting some media play, notably over at Vox. I was wondering if you have […]

Selection bias in the reporting of shaky research: An example

On 30 Dec 2016, a reporter wrote: I was wondering if you’d have some time to look at an interesting embargoed study coming out next week in JAMA Internal Medicine, which seeks to show that gun violence is a social contagion. I know that a few years ago, social contagion studies were controversial and I’m […]

Causal identification + observational study + multilevel model

Sam Portnow writes: I am attempting to model the impact of tax benefits on children’s school readiness skills. Obviously, benefits themselves are biased, so I am trying to use the doubling of the maximum allowable additional child tax credit in 2003 to get an unbiased estimate of benefits. I was initially planning to attack this […]

Robert Gelman, 1923-2017

Bob Gelman, beloved husband of Jane for 67 years, proud father of Alan, Nancy, Susan, and Andy, and adoring grandparent of Stephanie, Noah, Adam, Jamie, Ben, Zacky, Jakey, and Sophie, passed away peacefully on the morning of 27 Aug 2017 at the age of 94. A child of immigrants, Bob grew up playing stickball in […]

Using statistical prediction (also called “machine learning”) to potentially save lots of resources in criminal justice

John Snow writes: Just came across this paper [Human Decisions and Machine Predictions, by Jon Kleinberg, Himabindu Lakkaraju, Jure Leskovec, Jens Ludwig, and Sendhil Mullainathan] and I’m wondering if you’ve been following the debate/discussion around these criminal justice risk assessment tools. I haven’t read it carefully or fully digested the details. On the surface, their […]

Publish your raw data and your speculations, then let other people do the analysis: track and field edition

There seems to be an expectation in science that the people who gather a dataset should also be the ones who analyze it. But often that doesn’t make sense: what it takes to gather relevant data has little to do with what it takes to perform a reasonable analysis. Indeed, the imperatives of analysis can […]

“Babbage was out to show that not only was the system closed, with a small group controlling access to the purse strings and the same individuals being selected over and again for the few scientific honours or paid positions that existed, but also that one of the chief beneficiaries . . . was undeserving.”

Fernando Martel Garcia writes: Here’s an early reference from the Victorian Age. Enjoy! It’s a news article by Rebekah Higgitt called “Fraud and the decline of science,” subtitled, “Charles Babbage’s accusations of fraudulent science underlined his attack on scientific governance, but were also bitterly personal.” My reply: Wow! I think I’m on Babbage’s side on […]

Consider seniority of authors when criticizing published work?

Carol Nickerson writes: I’ve written my fair share of letters to the editor and commentaries over the years, most of them languishing in the file drawer. It used to be impossible to get them published. The situation has improved a bit, but not enough. In any case, I never think about the sex of the […]

Giving feedback indirectly by invoking a hypothetical reviewer

Ethan Bolker points us to this discussion on “How can I avoid being “the negative one” when giving feedback on statistics?”, which begins: Results get sent around a group of biological collaborators for feedback. Comments come back from the senior members of the group about the implications of the results, possible extensions, etc. I look […]

“Explaining recent mortality trends among younger and middle-aged White Americans”

Kevin Lewis sends along this paper by Ryan Masters, Andrea Tilstra, and Daniel Simon, who write: Recent research has suggested that increases in mortality among middle-aged US Whites are being driven by suicides and poisonings from alcohol and drug use. Increases in these ‘despair’ deaths have been argued to reflect a cohort-based epidemic of pain […]