Deciding the conclusion ahead of time : Applied Statistics

元ネタはThe Washington Postが報じているThe Chamber of Commerce(商工会議所?)のメール:

The e-mail, written by the Chamber’s senior health policy manager and obtained by The Washington Post, proposes spending $50,000 to hire a “respected economist” to study the impact of health-care legislation, which is expected to come to the Senate floor this week, would have on jobs and the economy.

Step two, according to the e-mail, appears to assume the outcome of the economic review: “The economist will then circulate a sign-on letter to hundreds of other economists saying that the bill will kill jobs and hurt the economy. We will then be able to use this open letter to produce advertisements, and as a powerful lobbying and grass-roots document.”


The more serious issue is that this predetermined-conclusions thing happens all the time. (Or, as they say on the Internet, All. The. Time.) I’ve worked on many projects, often for pay, with organizations where I have a pretty clear sense ahead to time of what they’re looking for. I always give the straight story of what I’ve found, but these organizations are free to select and use just the findings of mine that they like.


This also reminds me of something I’ve noticed on legal consulting projects: typically, the consultants on the other side seem incompetent, sometimes extremely so.





What’s college all about? | Free exchange | Economist.com

So, the question: are colleges selling an information-based product or an aura-based product (or something else altogether)?

It could be that the key value is in being in a room with an expert and other interested students, in participating in dorm-room bull sessions, in napping on a pile of texts in a musty old library, and in running naked across the quad at three in the morning. These things can’t be digitised and infinitely replicated.


One other thing to think about; it could be that a key value of universities has nothing at all to do with what a student does while enrolled, and instead stems from the filtering mechanism of the admissions process. […] They act as ratings agencies, in a sense, screening products and declaring them “safe” or “risky”.


It would be interesting if in the future there are organisations which play this role more explicitly, offering to investigate a candidate’s history and skillset for a fee, and certifying qualified candidates, all in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost of an actual university education.