On De-Bunking 'Fake News' in the Post-Truth Era: How to Reduce Statistical Error in Research

5 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2019

See all articles by Bent Flyvbjerg

Bent Flyvbjerg

University of Oxford - Said Business School

Atif Ansar

University of Oxford - Said Business School

Alexander Budzier

University of Oxford - Saïd Business School

Søren Buhl

Aalborg University

Chantal Cantarelli

University of Oxford - Said Business School

Massimo Garbuio

The University of Sydney

Carsten Glenting

Independent

Mette Holm

Aalborg Municipality

Dan Lovallo

The University of Sydney

E.J.E. Molin

Delft University of Technology - Department of Transport and Logistics

Arne Rønnest

Independent

Allison Stewart

University of Oxford; University of Oxford - Said Business School

Bert van Wee

Delft University of Technology

Date Written: July 8, 2019

Abstract

The authors note with alarm that statistical noise caused by statistical incompetence is beginning to creep into research on cost overrun in public investment projects, contaminating research with work that does not meet basic standards of validity and reliability. The paper gives examples of such work and proposes three heuristics to root out the problem. First, researchers who are not statisticians, or do not have a strong background in statistics, should abstain from doing statistical analysis, and instead rely on more experienced colleagues, preferably professional statisticians. Second, journal referees should clearly state their level of statistical proficiency to journal editors, so these can set the right referee team. Finally, journal editors should make sure that at least one referee is capable of reviewing the statistical and methodological aspects of a paper. The work under review would have benefitted from observing these simple heuristics, as would any work based on statistical analysis.

Keywords: public investment, transportation infrastructure, project management, behavioral science, statistical error, signal and noise, optimism bias, planning fallacy, Hiding Hand

Suggested Citation

Flyvbjerg, Bent and Ansar, Atif and Budzier, Alexander and Buhl, Søren and Cantarelli, Chantal and Garbuio, Massimo and Glenting, Carsten and Holm, Mette and Lovallo, Dan and Molin, E.J.E. and Rønnest, Arne and Stewart, Allison and van Wee, Bert, On De-Bunking 'Fake News' in the Post-Truth Era: How to Reduce Statistical Error in Research (July 8, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3416731 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3416731

Bent Flyvbjerg (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Said Business School ( email )

Park End Street
Oxford, OX1 1HP
Great Britain

Atif Ansar

University of Oxford - Said Business School ( email )

Park End Street
Oxford, OX1 1HP
Great Britain

Alexander Budzier

University of Oxford - Saïd Business School ( email )

Park End Street
Oxford, OX1 1HP
Great Britain

Søren Buhl

Aalborg University ( email )

Fredrik Bajers Vej 7E
Aalborg, DK-9220
Denmark

Chantal Cantarelli

University of Oxford - Said Business School ( email )

Park End Street
Oxford, OX1 1HP
Great Britain

Massimo Garbuio

The University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney, NC NSW 2006
Australia

Carsten Glenting

Independent ( email )

Mette Holm

Aalborg Municipality

Aalborg
Denmark

Dan Lovallo

The University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney, NC NSW 2006
Australia

E.J.E. Molin

Delft University of Technology - Department of Transport and Logistics

Jaffalaan 5
NL-2628BX
Delft
Netherlands

Arne Rønnest

Independent ( email )

Allison Stewart

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

University of Oxford - Said Business School ( email )

Park End Street
Oxford, OX1 1HP
Great Britain

Bert Van Wee

Delft University of Technology ( email )

Stevinweg 1
Stevinweg 1
Delft, 2628 CN
Netherlands

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