The sad and dishonest state of economic research

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A survey of professional academic economists finds that a large percentage are quite willing to cheat or fake data to get the results they want.

From the paper’s abstract:

This study reports the results of a survey of professional, mostly academic economists about their research norms and scientific misbehavior. Behavior such as data fabrication or plagiarism are (almost) unanimously rejected and admitted by less than 4% of participants. Research practices that are often considered “questionable,” e.g., strategic behavior while analyzing results or in the publication process, are rejected by at least 60%. Despite their low justifiability, these behaviors are widespread. Ninety-four percent report having engaged in at least one unaccepted research practice. [emphasis mine]

That less than 4% engage in “data fabrication or plagiarism” might seem low, but it is a terrible statistic. Worse, the other results make me think that the many of the 96% who said they didn’t do this were lying. 40% admit to doing what they agree are “questionable” research practices, while 94% admit to committing “at least one unaccepted research practice.”

In other words, almost none of these academic economists can be trusted in the slightest. As the paper notes, “these behaviors are widespread.”


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  • joe

    So, I have to wonder, how many of these economists are conservative, I think not many. I also wonder how many could cross over into the field of climatologists, they seem to have the same kind of ethics(not many) as will plagiarize or doctor the numbers to fit whatever their agenda is.

  • Inever

    One can make money by lying about money. That’s why economics is such a dirty failed academic discipline. But astronomy is honest. No one gets rich by lying about the accretion discs of black holes.

  • Edward

    Well, this explains why Keynesian Economics is still thought to work, despite a Great Depression and a Great Recession of evidence to the contrary and quick recoveries from the 1920 and 1980 recessions, when opposite tactics were used (reduced taxes and reduced regulation, resulting in booms that lasted a decade and two decades, respectively). It seems that some economists are willing to be dishonest about what works and what they wish worked.

    Some, however, seem to cave in to the pressure to “publish or perish” and publish the same work multiple times with slight modifications in order to appear original. Maybe originality is difficult in the world of economics. After all, it takes a long time for the world to create new data; it isn’t like you can pop into the lab and run a quick experiment.

  • I’ve done some research on Keynesian economic theory for various blog posts, and the central tenant is counter-cyclical spending. Government spends more in bad times to boost the economy, then spends less during good times. As far as I know, the theory has never wholly been put into practice.

    There is spending o’plenty during recessionary times, and when the economy improves, there’s . . . more spending as tax revenue increases. The increased spending is masked by the increased revenue. When the inevitable downturn occurs, government has taken on additional obligations incurred during the fat times, and these must be serviced along with whatever spending the Keynesian’s call for.

    If the theory had been truly implemented, then we should have seen markedly reduced government spending at the end of a two-decade boom compared to the beginning. We didn’t. As a theory, Keynesian economics may work;:as implemented, it’s a death spiral.

  • Edward

    Death spiral or not, the basic theory failed during both the Great Depression and the current Great Recession. Whether spending was reduced in between is not the point, the point is that the increased spending did not get us out of the depression or this recession. Keynesian Economics fundamentally does not and cannot work to end economic downturns. (8 minutes)

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