The advent of widely available and powerful computer-based econometric packages such as Shazam, Eviews, SAS, SPSS, RATS, and Statistica (among others) has resulted in a boon in the use and application of econometric and statistical analysis to a whole host of problems.
Prior to these software packages, statistical and econometric analysis was left to a few hardened and highly qualified econometricians and statisticians who knew a great deal about the use and misuse of statistical and econometric techniques.
Now, however, everyone uses – or rather, misuses – these packages to mine data and produce conclusions that cannot be sustained if subject to a careful analysis. It’s a bit like using a calculator to add or multiply. Users often do not realise the errors they have introduced and are unaware of making fundamental mistakes. Unfortunately, many referees are unable (or unwilling) to notice the errors so they pass through to publication.
This pathetic error-prone analysis has been the foundation of so-called ‘climate science’ which is riddled with basic analytical flaws such as mis-specification, omitted variables, multicollinearity, heteroskedasticity, measurement errors, autocorrelation, data mining to support prior conclusions, publication bias, and confusing causality with correlation.
To this extent, at least, sophisticated computer-based data analysis programs may have caused more problems than the benefits they have provided.
By reducing the cost of using these tools there has been a revolution in the use of such analysis to prove and disprove all sorts of propositions.
Unfortunately, in my personal observation, 99 per cent of these analyses are crap. The ‘researchers’ are not dispassionate and will do whatever it takes to reach their pre-determined conclusion. This bias is shielded behind seemingly sophisticated analytics which is simply punched out from a computer.
This is not science, but it has taken over many university social science departments where so-called theories are not able to be tested using the scientific method of conducting experiments which can be falsified.
Normally one would expect that such poor analysis would be critiqued and the authors embarrassed. But in this publication-rich environment, where the opportunity cost of reading boring papers is high, they go through to the keeper, with the media reporting false conclusions as if they were fact, especially if it is in line with the biases of the particular media organisation. The ABC, for example, breathlessly reports all sorts of so-called ‘research’ which confirms anthropogenic global warming. How tiresome. It is just impossible for sophisticated statisticians and econometricians to keep up with the mountain of crap.
Perhaps these computer packages are more of a curse than blessing?