James Taranto debunks some reporting from a New York Times article which detailed the White House’s efforts to pressure scientists. He takes aim at a common culprit, shoddy academic studies. Here’s a good bit:
The biggest problem with the survey, though, is its basic methodology, explained on the first page of the PDF:
Following is the text of the survey UCS mailed to 1,630 federal climate scientists at seven federal agencies and departments, along with response data for the 279 scientists who completed and returned surveys.
That is, only about 17% of the scientists who received the survey actually filled it out and returned it.
There is no reason to think this is a representative sample of the total population, and it seems reasonable to surmise that people who would go to the trouble of completing such a survey are more likely than those who wouldn’t to perceive themselves as under political pressure–i.e., to agree with the UCS.
Journalists rarely take the time to examine methodology. Especially when research supports preconceived frames.