David Glenn has a stellar article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on Lott’s lawsuit. (Free access only for five days.) Glenn writes:
The passage concludes with these 60 words:
Then there is the troubling allegation that Lott actually invented some of the survey data that support his more-guns/less-crime theory. Regardless of whether the data were faked, Lott’s admittedly intriguing hypothesis doesn’t seem to be true. When other scholars have tried to replicate his results, they found that right-to-carry laws simply don’t bring down crime.
It is easy to see why Mr. Lott might find those sentences obnoxious and unfair. It is a glib, breezy passage about a complicated research strategy. The second sentence is constructed in a way that might lead a lazy reader to believe that Mr. Lott’s entire data set on guns and crime — as opposed to the much smaller telephone survey — was under suspicion of fabrication. And the authors chose not to mention a few recent scholarly papers that endorse Mr. Lott’s basic hypothesis, if not his precise statistical model.
But those are not the complaints that Mr. Lott makes in his lawsuit. Instead, he alleges that the last sentence is false and defamatory in a very specific way: “The term ‘replicate’ has an objective and factual meaning in the world of academic research and scholarship,” the lawsuit reads. “When Levitt and Dubner allege that ‘other scholars have tried to replicate his results,’ the clear and unambiguous meaning is that ‘other scholars’ have analyzed the identical data that Lott analyzed and analyzed it the way Lott did in order to determine whether they can reach the same result.”
While Glenn finds two supporters of Lott on the meaning of replicate, their assertions are trumped by the examples of it being used with the more general meaning.
Lott’s charge in the second part of his lawsuit also seems on shaky ground:
In “symposium” issues of journals, there is a tacit understanding that all, or nearly all, of the papers will be published, said Jeffrey A. Miron, a visiting professor of economics at Harvard who participated in the conference. “The rate at which the journal accepts these papers and chooses to publish them is 90 to 100 percent,” he said. “So it’s not refereed in the same way, or subject to the same standards, as if you submit something cold to The Journal of Law and Economics.” (The journal’s normal acceptance rate is less than 10 percent.)
Mr. Miron said Mr. Levitt’s characterization of the issue as “not peer-refereed” was an exaggeration but not an outrageous untruth, and Mr. Miron doubts Mr. Lott will win on this point in court.
This bit is interesting:
In any case, Mr. Moody wishes Mr. Lott the best in his battle with Mr. Levitt. If the Freakonomics passage about replication had been written about his own work, Mr. Moody said, “I’d feel as if a knife had been stuck in my chest. That’s the worst thing that you can say about an academic. It’s horrible.”
Oh, I don’t know if it’s the worst thing. How about this statement about an academic made by Moody at an AEI symposium?
The second cut is, as you say, is the data available to other researchers [inaudible], and the answer is no for Kellermann, so I think he’s lying. He’s refused repeated requests for his data. So, no, I don’t trust him and I don’t think anybody here in this room should trust him, or anywhere else, for that matter.
I pointed out to Moody that Kellermann’s data was available for download from the ICPSR. Moody had his slander of Kellermann edited out of the transcript. I suggested that he should publicly apologize to Kellermann. He initially said that he would be happy to do so, but reneged, saying that he thought Kellermann would prefer not to get an apology (false, in fact).