Group queries method of Hopkins professor

February 05, 2009|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,stephanie.desmon@baltsun.com

A Johns Hopkins professor who co-authored a study suggesting that huge numbers of civilians have died during the U.S. war in Iraq was accused of ethics violations yesterday by a prominent group of polling researchers, and university officials announced that they are conducting their own review.

The rebuke, by the American Association for Public Opinion Research, came after an investigation into how Dr. Gilbert Burnham of the Bloomberg School of Public Health determined that nearly 655,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the U.S.-led invasion and its bloody aftermath. The results - which estimated hundreds of thousands more deaths than the Bush administration had reported - were published in 2006 in The Lancet, a leading British medical journal.

Officials of the association, of which Burnham is not a member, said Burnham refused to disclose the wording of his questions and basic methodological details of his research, a violation of the group's code of ethics and practices. That makes it impossible for other researchers to verify the work, said Mary E. Losch, chairwoman of the AAPOR's Standards Committee.

"If you're not willing to provide information about how you conducted a study, we believe that is problematic," said Losch, a psychologist at the University of Northern Iowa.

Burnham could not be reached for comment.

Timothy M. Parsons, a spokesman for Bloomberg, said the school is doing its own investigation to determine "if any violation of the school's rules or guidelines for the conduct of research occurred in the conduct of the study." He declined to comment further.

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