Friday, January 04, 2008

National Journal vs. The Lancet

In its latest issue the National Journal sets its sights on the problematic matter of wartime statistics, chief in point the oft-quoted study by the Lancet ("Data Bomb", by Neil Munro and Carl M. Cannon):

Over the past several months, National Journal has examined the 2006 Lancet article, and another [PDF] that some of the same authors published in 2004; probed the problems of estimating wartime mortality rates; and interviewed the authors and their critics. NJ has identified potential problems with the research that fall under three broad headings: 1) possible flaws in the design and execution of the study; 2) a lack of transparency in the data, which has raised suspicions of fraud; and 3) political preferences held by the authors and the funders, which include George Soros's Open Society Institute. . . .
Apprently even the anti-war Iraq Body Count disputes the findings:
Officials at Iraq Body Count strongly opposed the Iraq war yet issued a detailed critique of the Lancet II study. Researchers wading into a field that is this fraught with danger have a responsibility not to be reckless with statistics, the group said. The numbers claimed by the Lancet study would, under the normal ratios of warfare, result in more than a million Iraqis wounded seriously enough to require medical treatment, according to this critique. Yet official sources in Iraq have not reported any such phenomenon. An Iraq Body Count analysis showed that the Lancet II numbers would have meant that 1,000 Iraqis were dying every day during the first half of 2006, "with less than a tenth of them being noticed by any public surveillance mechanisms." The February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque is widely credited with plunging Iraq into civil war, yet the Lancet II report posits the equivalent of five to 10 bombings of this magnitude in Iraq every day for three years.

"In the light of such extreme and improbable implications," the Iraq Body Count report stated, "a rational alternative conclusion to be considered is that the authors have drawn conclusions from unrepresentative data."

On a Related Note:

  • Anti-war Soros funded Iraq study Sunday Times January 13, 2008:
    The study, published in 2006, was hailed by antiwar campaigners as evidence of the scale of the disaster caused by the invasion, but Downing Street and President George Bush challenged its methodology.

    New research published by The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that 151,000 people - less than a quarter of The Lancet estimate - have died since the invasion in 2003.

    “The authors should have disclosed the [Soros] donation and for many people that would have been a disqualifying factor in terms of publishing the research,” said Michael Spagat, economics professor at Royal Holloway, University of London.