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So-called rigorous but meaningless research - From Ian MacMillan

Co-author Ian MacMillan made the following observation, which I thought merited a post here:

In his words:

Our obsession with research that “rigorous”is driving out relevance. 

Here is a beauty:  The author did an exquisitely detailed analysis of all start-ups of firms making components for manufactured products, conducted over a period of decades.  The author then went into a methodological frenzy and eventually tested fourteen regression models.  The conclusions (once you cut through the obfuscating theoryspeak) were:

Component manufacturing start-ups are more likely to choose a location:

a. The more manufacturers there that are making products needing these components

b. The more products being used there that need replacement components

c. The more people there that use the products which need these components

d. The more suppliers that are there that are making raw material for the components

This typifies a lot of the work that you see in the “Top Journals” today – arcane theoretical arguments, leading to excruciatingly detailed data collection and exquisite analyses, that in turn lead to banal and/or self evident conclusions.

Does anyone else have examples?

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1 Comment

  • 12/19/13 10:26 CE at TheCentralPremise.org:

    Uh-oh. That’s a scary question for anyone who works at the Fed. I will say that efforts to increase relevance are progressing well. Trust Mac to cut through the chaff.

    Reply