Methodology of the Johns Hopkins study firmly defended. The numbers are credible Mr. Bush.

Originally published 10/19/06:

The “Stats” website from George Mason University has given a nice analysis of the Johns Hopkins Iraq Study and states that the scientific community is pretty much unified in recognizing the validity of the methods used in the study.  They say:

“While the Lancet numbers are shocking, the study’s methodology is not. The scientific community is in agreement over the statistical methods used to collect the data and the validity of the conclusions drawn by the researchers conducting the study.  When the prequel to this study appeared two years ago by the same authors (at that time, 100,000 excess deaths were reported), the Chronicle of Higher Education published a long article explaining the support within the scientific community for the methods used.
President Bush, however, says he does “
not consider it a credible report” and the media refer to the study as “controversial.” And even as the Associated Press reported mixed reviews, all the scientists quoted in its piece on the “controversy” were solidly behind the methods used. Indeed, the Washington Post points out that this and the earlier study are the “only ones to estimate mortality in Iraq using scientific methods.”

http://www.stats.org/stories/the_science_ct_dead_oct17_06.htm

A Wall Street Journal opinion article by Steven Moore of the IRI, which criticized the JH study was also refuted by Stats.  The Wall Street Article is here:

 http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110009108

In it Moore claims that there weren’t enough cluster points (47) to adequately represent the entire population of Iraq.  This is answered by Stats thusly:

The point is that the number of clusters relative to the size of the population is less relevant than whether the sample of clusters is representative of the population. So when Moore implicitly criticizes the Lancet study in relation to a similar study on Kosovo which used 50 cluster points, “for a population of just 1.6 million, compared to Iraq’s 27 million,” the issue is not one of brute numbers, but whether the clusters chosen are representative of the overall population.

Research biostatistician Steve Simon (by way of Deltoid at Science Blogs, who is highly critical of Moore’s article) explains the principle:

“‘Every cook knows that it only takes a single sip from a well-stirred soup to determine the taste.’ It’s a nice analogy because you can visualize what happens when the soup is poorly stirred.

With regards to why a sample size characterizes a population of 10 million and a population of 10 thousand equally well, use the soup analogy again. A single sip is sufficient both for a small pot and a large pot.”

http://www.stats.org/stories/did_wsj_flaw_iraq_oct18_06.htm

Some day the world will look back and see that the JH study was the definitive work on war related deaths in Iraq.  Until then we will keep destroying life in Iraq… probably long after we have left.

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