Most Ph.D. students spend their days reading esoteric books and stressing out about the tenure-track job market. Thomas Herndon, a 28-year-old economics grad student at UMass Amherst, just used part of his spring semester to shake the intellectual foundation of the global austerity movement.
There are several things that are great about this story:
- A “lowly” graduate student was able to take down a highly influential study, by simply looking under the hood at the underlying data and finding simple errors.
- The importance of replicating existing findings.
- Consequently, the importance of sharing data (or making it publicly available).
- The importance of remembering that science is not about definitive answers, but about engaging in a debate.
- The importance of making arguments and counter-arguments based on data, not just mere speculation.
We don’t often push our students to ask questions and challenge the authorities. We should. This guy is inspiration because he had the confidence, persistence, and fortitude to take apart a highly influential study.
You also have to give credit to his professor, who gave the assignment: Go out and replicate and existing study. And then working with the student to refine the findings and double-check the work.
And you also have to give credit to one of the original authors of the study, who sent the student the dataset. Without that dataset, there would be no “take down” and no discovery. The original author knew she was exposing herself, but freely passed along the data.
This is how the scientific method works, and why it’s superior to other forms of knowledge. Science is a collaborative project. The student needed guidance from the professor; the original author shared her data. Together—collectively—they are engaging in a debate and uncovering knowledge (in this particular case: the relationship between public debt and economic growth).
In the end, it doesn’t matter that the student is a “lowly” graduate student at UMass Amherst and he “took down” two Harvard economics professors. In the most scientific sense, they stood as equals and worked together to solve a problem. The idea that “experts” have superior intellects and should not cooperate if they disagree, is the exact opposite of how science is supposed to work.
- nomling reblogged this from bakethatlinguist
- axonsandsynapses likes this
- terwilligerbuntsone likes this
- thecolorsky reblogged this from bakethatlinguist
- owl-detector likes this
- uutpoetry likes this
- bakethatlinguist reblogged this from samanticshift
- hummingbirdpremed reblogged this from pol102
- 000011111333333 likes this
- purgatorialrecklessness likes this
- aneudynasty reblogged this from pol102
- atomickittyandthecriticaltheory reblogged this from pol102
- pettsson likes this
- clutchlog reblogged this from thecherub
- thecherub reblogged this from pol102
- imaginationgaymer likes this
- thefoolsage reblogged this from ceeissquared
- thefoolsage likes this
- ceeissquared reblogged this from pol102
- getoffmyblog likes this
- staggeringheights likes this
- v-s-v-ppp likes this
- rojobrandon reblogged this from pol102
- rojobrandon likes this
- misterscarlet likes this
- silver-rhapsody-23 reblogged this from heartofsagittarius
- silver-rhapsody-23 likes this
- echotoall likes this
- sailormoonandcereal reblogged this from pol102
- sixdegreesofkevinbacon reblogged this from lafrondeuse
- elleemenoh likes this
- lafrondeuse reblogged this from pol102
- mithich reblogged this from pol102
- revolutiontrainee reblogged this from pol102
- criticalk likes this
- revolutiontrainee likes this
- reformingdilatory reblogged this from pol102
- scrambledfish likes this
- heartofsagittarius reblogged this from darlingboy
- samanticshift reblogged this from peakcapitolism
- darlingboy reblogged this from pol102
- darlingboy likes this
- recoveringhipster likes this
- polyscinerd likes this
- suspirata likes this
- thewoonderkabinett reblogged this from pol102
- thewoonderkabinett likes this
- cwaytoheaven likes this
- billiejeandavy reblogged this from peaceshine3