Those who study science professionally or with too much faith in peer review ought to follow Retraction Watch daily. Generally the headlines tell seasoned readers all they need to know (that is, journal editors that are too eager to underplay and hide faulty review, repeat offenders that always seem to find a space in institutions that want high impact research [and the accompanying grants], or just plain human folly); but this time the stunning details are below the fold as it were. For, guess who has had a problem with making data transparently available? This piece has the answer.
Star-media economist, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Millennium Villages Project, a very high profile development project (funded by U.N. among others) had to admit that two pieces his team published presented over-optimistic findings (in top medical journals). Sachs was smart enough to try to avoid a cover up and acknowledged that his critics had been right, mistakes were made, the person responsible left, etc. But crucially he did not release the data for outside review. His group failed to do so with a classic case of bureaucratic-new-speak:
[T]he project adheres to the requirements of scientific journals in which it is published and the oversight of 11 institutional review boards. We are currently midway through a 10-y evaluation. Survey tools are publically available, indicator definitions are clearly presented, and methods for statistical testing are outlined in detail. Peer reviewers often request additional analyses that may or may not appear in the manuscript or its appendices, and they may request primary data in some instances. Challenges associated with making primary research data widely available have been commented on previously (11). This should be distinguished from secondary analyses of public data sets such as the DHS (supplemental Appendix in the online issue of our article). (The source is here.)
Problem is, when you are spending other people's money and wish to be taken as an impartial expert, "trust us," is not good enough. The end of this story will be all-too-predictable, alas: a relentless campaign by WSJ, FOX, Cato in order to discredit Sachs, the UN, development, etc.