Tuesday, March 01, 2011

"Environmental Substance Abuse"

A truly astonishing piece of work in which the author Mark Atlas proceeds to do a pretty convincing hatchet job on a very large number of applied "environmental economics" papers (550) including one of mine :-( (I am part of an et al).

It is hard to argue with much in the 715 pages (and over 4,000 footnotes) from what I have read so far.

Anyone doing applied environmental economics has to at least attempt to read some of this report.

Thanks to Aquanomics (a very fine new "...nomics" to add to my collection) for the hat tip.

The Aquanomics article on this topic is certainly worth a read for its "academic bun fight" report.

It is very impressive that Atlas went to the lengths he has gone to in this paper (and his post reported in Aquanomics). This paper deserves to be read by anyone purporting to be an environmental economist.

Back to the report......where does something like this get published? A little long for JEEM unfortunately.

My papers will never be the same again...

Environmental Substance Abuse: The Substantive Competence of Social Science Empirical Environmental Policy Research[LARGE PDF]

Mark K. Atlas
affiliation not provided to SSRN
December 22, 2010

In a 2002 article, social science scholars criticized legal scholars for violating empirical analysis principles in law review articles. Their review of hundreds of empirical law review articles led to a pervasively grim assessment of these articles and their authors, concluding that empirical legal scholarship was deeply flawed, with serious problems of inference and methodology everywhere. In essence, the 2002 article argued that although legal scholars’ articles might be substantively competent (i.e., knowledgeable about the law and facts), they were, at best, methodologically incompetent.

This Report reverses the 2002 article’s focus, assessing the substantive competence of social science empirical research articles, ignoring their methodological competence. This Report focuses on about 550 social science articles from peer-reviewed journals since the 1960’s that used quantitative research to study United States domestic environmental policies and practices. The 2002 article examined aspects of law review articles at which legal researchers might be deficient but at which social science researchers should be competent. This Report does the opposite by focusing on what legal researchers should be most expert – determining the relevant laws, government policies, and facts. Consequently, just as the 2002 article evaluated whether law review articles violated empirical research rules, this Report evaluates whether social science environmental policy articles were incorrect or incomplete about the relevant laws, government policies, or facts.

Although the 2002 article concluded that every empirical law review article was fatally flawed methodologically, this Report does not conclude that every social science environmental policy article was fatally flawed substantively. However, the overwhelming majority of those articles were substantively uninformed, amateurish, shoddy, and/or deceptive. Anyone with a basic understanding of the environmental laws, policies, facts, and/or data relevant to any particular article would conclude after only a brief review that the article was seriously flawed. Unfortunately, social science journals publishing environmental policy articles have been like runaway trains of invalid research that keep picking up new passengers. This Report explains in detail the substantive problems with each of these articles.

JEL Classifications: K23, K32, K41, K42, Q25, Q28
Working Paper Series


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