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Why You Can't Believe Everything You Read (including what is in this message): I was reminded in recent weeks that even the most experienced and prominent researchers will make serious and potentially dangerous mistakes. Two incidents come to mind. The first was a report published by the Education Sector and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni stating 'that faculty teaching loads had gone down substantially, contributing to the rising cost of higher education.' The report, titled "Selling Students Short," claimed that 'from 1987-1988 to 2003-2004, the average number of courses tenured and tenure-track faculty taught per term\u2026declined 25 percent." The research summarized in the report, however, turned out to be incorrect. A blog post from Andrew Gillen, the research director at Education Sector, admitted that they 'cannot determine whether teaching loads for the typical professor declined, stayed the same, or increased." Read more information here. Even more serious was the mistake made in a 2010 paper by Carmen Reinhart, currently a professor at Harvard Kennedy School, and Kenneth Rogoff, an economist at Harvard University. 'They argued that GDP growth slows to a snail's pace once government-debt levels exceed 90% of GDP. The 90% figure quickly became ammunition in political arguments over austerity.' In fact, the above paper shaped many political arguments and economic policies in the US and abroad. A graduate student named Thomas Herndon at the University of Massachusetts tried to replicate the results of the Reinhart-Rogoff paper only to discover it was riddled with mistakes. See more on the story here. My conclusion? Always check, then double-check, published results, even those by famous and (usually) careful researchers.


The University of New Mexico




The University of New Mexico