Monday, February 09, 2015


Richard Tol has a history of conducting polls which would, according to what he writes about them, have required ethics approval.  Now Richard Tol also has a history of not really liking John Cook and especially Cook, et al 2013, so Eli was interested to see the announcement of a new Tol Poll, ostensibly surveying attitudes toward climate change.

Richard, AFAEK first announced his poll on January 19 on a thread at And Then

Richard S.J. Tol says:
January 19, 2015 at 8:28 am 
Please help our research by taking this survey

there were some comments

jsam says:
January 19, 2015 at 8:39 am  
I started the survey and then stopped early. I’d expected to see a description of who was running the survey, what it’s intention was, etc. I answered the “je ne regrette rien” questions and then stopped at the lottery section.

January 19, 2015 at 9:16 am 
Have you run your survey past the arbiter of all that is good and right in science? I’d hate you to suddenly be accused of fraud and misconduct.

and replies

Richard S.J. Tol says:
January 19, 2015 at 2:25 pm@Joshua
This survey will be used in papers. 

To Eli, this made it clear that the New Toll Poll would require research ethics approval, and, of course, the University of Sussex has people and procedures needed before such a poll is undertaken.  Indeed, Cook et al 2013 has been attacked by the multitudes with various waving hands about ethics approvals that were related to the paper including many supporting demands for data on Prof. Tol's part.

Eli thought, perhaps indeed Prof. Richard Tol has sought such approval, so he wrote to the University of Sussex
A faculty member at the University of Sussex, Richard Tol has organized an on line poll the results of which he writes will be the basis of one or more publications.  Eli writes to you to inquire if he has applied for, submitted, and/or received an ethical review for this survey as required by the policies of the University of Sussex.  The Rabett would appreciate your acknowledging receipt of this Email and indicating whether you will send a copy of the application and the review and decision.  If there  has been NO application for ethical review, please so indicate.
The documentation associated with ethical approval, would, of course, provide insight into the construction and the purpose of the survey.

Today, came this reply
I can confirm that this survey did not have ethical approval and that data from the survey will not be used in future publications.
One may have fun speculating about whether
a.  Prof. Tol was simply lying having the bunnies on about his survey (which is still on the net and web cited) being used in his future papers.
b.  The research ethics officers of the University of Sussex had some words with Prof. Tol.
The fun part of course is that there may well have been interesting exchanges of Emails between the various research ethics officers and between them and Prof. Tol.  Eli would prefer to fantasize about same rather than bother the various parties to open the Tolgate, still there are issues associated with the bother that the good Prof. Tol put others to, which raise ethical issues in and of themselves.

Those taken in, may of course, wish to register their disappointment with the University of Sussex and the appropriate school.


dbostrom said...

Some people have to be shown more than once.

Rob Honeycutt said...

From the survey... "Uncertainty about the impact of what I do is a good reason to stop doing it!"


(FYI, I love how each item has an exclamation point!)

Hank Roberts said...

Is there any anonymity for those replying, or will this go into their personal dossiers for later?

izenmeme said...

So if the survey survey will not be used in future publications, who funded it and why?
Is it possible an economeritrician is paying for this out of his own pocket ?!

William Connolley said...

Tee hee.

Andrew said...

According to the UofS he does teach a module on 'Advanced research methods for economics'. Clearly this is an *ahem* Advanced Research Method. We shouldn't question. said...

Please don't call him an econometrician. Nobody who would treat all those runs of approximately the same model as independent observations should be called that.

Tom Gray said...

I feel sorry for Richard. So much easier to use his name to construct cute headlines (I myself have referred to "The Tol of Climate Denial") than, say, Lomborg.

Tom Gray said...

And now that I'm reminded of it, in that respect he is kind of like Harvard President Drew Faust, clinging to those Mephistophelean fossil fuels investments.

L Hamilton said...

Prior approval for human subjects research is such a basic requirement that entering grad students commonly learn about it in a mandatory short course on ethics. How does a senior researcher not know this?

In previous research, did Tol sometimes skip this step?

Matt M said...

Tol using poll results below. Not encouraging.

"A more important question is perhaps why the public lost so much faith in climate science that they prefer to believe Booker over you guys. The Telegraph poll suggests that 90% of 110,000 readers are with Booker."

KAP said...

If you limp all the way to the end, you can see that 88% of respondents are male, and 70% over age 45. Gee, hardly any selection bias there ...

guthrie said...

The Torygraph poll is not representative of anything except "people who read the Torygraph and think global warming is a scam and have online access".

So it tells you nothing much about the public, the vast majority of whom, (Like 99%) don't read the Torygraph, don't have online access to it and think global warming is real. Note the bait and switch, first he mentions the public, then he moves onto the torygraph readers, actually listing the result somewhat correctly, but not mentioning how many took the poll. How many did take the poll? What is the sample size?

afeman said...

Slashdot online polls have long come with this disclaimer:

"This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane."

EliRabett said...

In previous research Richard skipped many steps. Thinking being one of them

dbostrom said...

In previous research, did Tol sometimes skip this step?

Yes. Or did he ask "Andy S" for permission to quote?

Steve Bloom said...


He amazes! He confuses! He makes results appear out of thin air!

(So, Russell. No charge for this.)

cRR Kampen said...

The exclamation marks.

I know climate revisionism is blatant thuggery and Tol is one of the thugs. But what is with climate revisionism that it always dumbs down so badly? People like Judith Curry and Richard Tol strike me as having been stricken by some sort of acute Alzheimer.
Their story and ways of doing are very much like the especially as such devised bad acting for bad acting as one may enjoy in porn movies. 'Enjoy', sorry.

Susan Anderson said...

Lovely, thanks all. Tee hee too.