L’Affaire Burnham: Ten Years Later

I just gave this presentation at the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) in Toronto.

The title of the talk is taken from Richard Kulka’s Presidential Address to AAPOR.  Back in 2009 AAPOR censured Gilbert Burnham of Johns Hopkins University for refusing to disclose basic information about his methodology for (over)estimating violent deaths in the Iraq war.

This action led to a massive discussion on the AAPOR listserve which Kulka analyzed in his Presidential Address.  Read it.  It’s great.

My presentation tells the story about what happened next.  In short, AAPOR moved from the cutting edge of open science to the middle of the pack.  AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative favors openness of everything except data.  Meanwhile, AAPOR grandees who conceal their data get big awards.

That said, I return from the conference with a sense that the worm is turning on AAPOR and open data.  We’ll see.

Please have a look at the slides and let me know what you think.

Addendum – I just remembered this post in which I describe how an epidemiologist friend of Gilbert Burnham’s tried to dissuade me from ever mentioning the AAPOR censure of Burnham.   It’s another example of how researchers prioritize getting along with powerful people above getting to the truth.


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