Weird attacks on my gun research, also Scienceblogs censoring responses

Defenders of climate researchers who have refused to release their data, are claiming that I delayed releasing the data used in my book, More Guns, Less Crime. There are multiple inaccuracies in the posting, but let's just deal with what the poster claims is his core point for this post.

Conservative economist John Lott's 1998 book More Guns, Less Crime concluded based on the results of his own statistical analysis that more permissive hand gun laws reduced crime rates in counties and states that had adopted such laws. In a feat of statistical one-upmanship, Lott had compiled the largest data set on gun laws and crime statistics in the field. Naturally, conservatives and gun rights advocates immediately argued that Lott's empirical research was definitive reason to repeal gun laws across the country, since the result would be a decrease in crime rates.
In response, contending experts ranging from sociologists to law professors argued that before any policy was adopted based on Lott's research, that they should be able to examine Lott's raw data and the decisions that he made in conducting his analysis. Lott further stoked the fires of the controversy by being slow to release his data--which made it appear as if he had something to hide . . .

They have yet to publish my comment on their post, so here is my response:

This piece makes inaccurate claims about my work. The data in my original paper with David Mustard was released even before the paper was published. Our paper was published in the January 1997 of the Journal of Legal Studies. We provided our data to critics such as Dan Black and Dan Nagin as well as Jens Ludwig in August 1996. In fact, the Brady Campaign put on a panel at the National Press Club on December 9, 1996 where I debated them on their analysis of our data.

The first edition of More Guns, Less Crime was published in 1998. All the data for all the regressions and all the tables and figures in the book was again released to others even prior to the book being published. Most of that research involved the same data from 1977 to 1992 that was in my original paper with Mustard, but the additional data in the book that extended to 1994 was also released.

Ironically, I had a computer crash in July 1997 where I lost the data that I had already provided to the critics to whom we had already provided the data. David Mustard and myself asked these individuals to get back a copy of our data, but they declined to do so. I know that David asked them several times. Because we realized that we had an obligation to make our data available to others, David and I spent more than several months putting the data together again. (David spent significantly more time than I did putting that data back together again.)

Since then the data used in More Guns, Less Crime has been provided to over 200 hundred people at universities around the world. Dozens of papers have been published using the data. The paper by Black and Nagin was published in the Journal of Legal Studies in January 1998 (which was four months BEFORE More Guns, Less Crime was published). Given the lead-time in refereeing and publications, it should be fairly obvious that they had submitted their paper a year earlier in late 1996. How could they have submitted their paper for publication in the Journal of Legal Studies before my paper with Mustard was published if we hadn't shared the data?

So your story is backwards. Our data was given out immediately. When the data was lost in a hard disk crash, our critics refused to give us a copy back of our own data. David and I redid the data a second time. It was not something that we had to do (especially given the many months of work involved), but it was the right thing to do. It would have been better if our critics had simply given us back a copy of our own data.

It is easy enough for you to check out when the Black and Nagin paper was published. Another critical paper was published by Jens Ludwig in May 1998 in the International Review of Law and Economics. An entire issue of the Journal of Law and Economics in 2001 published papers on gun control, most of those papers using the data in my book.

UPDATE: This post was eventually put up, but I had sent in a second post at the same time as the first one that never seems to have gotten approved. That second piece pointed to articles that I have written on climate researchers from the pro-manmade global warming side who have refused to provide their raw data even well after their research has been published.

In any case, the original post on scienceblog was changed so I made this response (we will see if it gets put up):

As to the claim about "they should be able to examine Lott's raw data and the decisions that he made in conducting his analysis" it is easy for people to evaluate that also. For example, if they look at the Black and Nagin paper, people will see that Black and Nagin replicate the research that Mustard and I had done and they were able to do that because I provided them with all the raw data as well as the "do" file that contained the regressions. There was nothing else there to provide them. They didn't replicate most of the empirical work in the original paper with Mustard, but that was their choice. If you think that there was something else, please indicate what it would be. A response to the Black and Nagin paper is available here.

As to the Mother Jones interview, I gave two interviews to someone who was obviously hostile (not all of our discussions were transcribed). I offered to go off the record to explain things in depth because I wanted to provide a detailed discussion without worrying that he would take some small part of what I was saying out of context and distort it. The point was to take the time to give him a detailed response, but he wasn't interested in doing that. When you do interviews with hostile individuals you learn very quickly that people can take things out of context and you give a different interview than in situations where you are sure that the entire transcript is going to be made available. It was my understanding that we were doing the first type of interview.

UPDATE: Of course, only one of my posts have been put up at the website that is criticizing me. I made two posts (they put up one) and they then rewrote their post. I respond, but they don't put it up either.

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Blogger Mike Gallo said...

Sound to me like "Reasoned Discourse" has broken out! Excellent rebuttals.

3/31/2010 9:30 AM  
Blogger The Professor said...

Hi John,
Please post your second comment again. I do not have a record of it in my moderation list.

I welcome your feedback and I have updated the original post to reflect the details and timeline your provided in your first comment.


3/31/2010 10:33 AM  

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