Donald Kennedy’s editorial “Research fraud and public policy” (18 April, p. 393) alleges that I made up a computer hard disk crash when challenged about the loss of data on a 1997 survey. Unfortunately, Science did not contact me about these allegations. I have provided editors with statements from nine different academics, verifying the hard disk crash. Four of them were coauthors who also lost data with me.
Lott attempts his usual sleight of hand here, pretending that Kennedy alleged that Lott invented the disk crash. Of course, as Lott very well knows, what Kennedy actually suggested was that Lott invented the survey. And while Lott has been able to find nine academics who verify the disk crash, he hasn’t been able to find any academics to verify the existence of the survey.
When the disk crashed on 3 July 1997, I lost all my data for virtually all the research projects that I had conducted up to that point in time, including the text and data files for my book More Guns, Less Crime. With the help of other academics, primarily David Mustard (University of Georgia), I replaced all the massive crime data sets so that academics at dozens of universities could replicate and reexamine every single regression reported in my book. All the additional data have also been supplied for the book’s second edition.
Lott artfully avoids mentioning the additional data for his reply to Ayres and Donohue. The data which contained systematic coding errors. Nor does he mention that when the coding errors are corrected his results go away.
The survey data Kennedy mentions involve merely one number in one sentence in my book, and he fails to note that I later redid the survey on a smaller scale and obtained similar results. Those data have also been released (www.johnlott.org).
The later survey is too small for meaningful results and if you examine the data you will find that the results are not what Lott claims.
Kennedy discusses criticisms that I made of Ian Ayres and John Donohue’s work (only Donohue is mentioned in the Editorial), but fails to note that I have provided them with my different city, county, and state level crime data sets both before and after they refused to provide me with data for their own work. I feel that the comments that I posted about their paper were entirely accurate.
Lott creates the impression that Ayres and Donohue haven’t released their data and that his “Mary Rosh” comments on their work were about this. In fact, their data is available here and what “Rosh” actually said was:
The Ayres and Donohue piece is a joke. I saw it a while ago. Their own county level data that did the year by year breakdown actually showed that Lott and Mustard were correct, but they weren’t smart enough to know it. A friend at the Harvard Law School said that Donohue gave the paper there and he was demolished on this and other points. I haven’t checked their paper again, but do they still have the county level breakdown by year or did they remove it because it was the most general test and it went the wrong way from their perspective? What academic journal are they going to get it publshed in?
Lott feels that it is “entirely accurate” to state that their paper is “a joke” and that Ayres and Donohue “weren’t smart enough” to understand their own results. And he wrote this after their paper and his reply had been accepted by the Stanford Law Review. (I dealt with Lott’s claim that their results supported him earlier.)
In his letter Lott continues:
I used a pseudonym in Internet chat rooms because earlier postings under my own name elicited threatening and obnoxious telephone calls.
This isn’t true either, as I explained before.