Talk:Statistical Assessment Service

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WikiProject Statistics (Rated Start-class, Low-importance)
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This article is within the scope of the WikiProject Statistics, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of statistics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page or join the discussion.

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A previous edit of this page selectively removed some information and added other information to make it appear that this organization puts out nothing but conservative material. All the additional references to research findings were at least seven years old, and none of them gave any indication of the writer having actually looked at the material in the current website at Srlichter (talk) 23:26, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

Astroturf groups category[edit]

(First two comments below moved from User_talk:DickClarkMises)

Your argument for removing the astroturf cat is that the cat itself is unencyclopedic, and I see you've nominated it for deletion. Fair enough. But assuming the cat "survives", then your argument for keeping the cat off of STATS will be invalid, and I'll be adding back in. So you might want to start thinking of another reason for keeping it off, depending on how the deletion discussion goes.... Yilloslime (t) 23:23, 9 February 2008 (UTC)

Yeah, you are right. If the category is kept, my argument will be that the STATS article must make it self-evident that such a category is appropriate, per the same guideline that I cite at CfD: Wikipedia:CAT#Some_general_guidelines, #7. If an article doesn't assert the quality to which the category is associated, the category is simply unwarranted. DickClarkMises (talk) 23:27, 9 February 2008 (UTC)
It seems that #8 of the guideline I cite above is relevant too.
7. Categories appear without annotations, so be careful of NPOV when creating or filling categories. Categories that are not self-evident, or are shown through reliable sources to be controversial, should not be included on the article; a list might be a better option.
8. An article should normally possess all the referenced information necessary to demonstrate that it belongs in each of its categories. Avoid including categories in an article if the article itself doesn't adequately show it belongs there. For example, avoid placing a category for a profession or award unless the article provides some verification that the placement is accurate. Use the {{Category unsourced}} tag if the article is in a category but no sources demonstrate the category is appropriate.
DickClarkMises (talk) 23:57, 9 February 2008 (UTC)

Proposing a new version of this article[edit]

{{request edit}} I think any objective appraisal of this article would note that there are real problems with it, as it currently exists. It's clearly slanted toward the views of critics, very much contrary to WP:NPOV, including much material that does not relate directly to what STATS actually is and does and some which is factually incorrect. Even the section title "Staff and organizational ties" is plainly tendentious.

I notice that the article's history has been fairly contentious, involving attempts by individuals associated with STATS to influence it, and not always in the most constructive way. Anyway, it now happens that STATS has become a client of my employer, and having discussed this article with them, I'd now like to propose a revised version which should answer some of their concerns and bringing the article up to neutral. That version is now available for review as a subpage in my userspace, and I'd like to explain it a bit further here:

  • My version includes a clearer and more concise introductory paragraph, explaining very concisely what STATS is about. Because it is a short article already, information about their founding date and mission is best presented in an overview section, rather than the intro. I've also created an infobox.
  • As noted above, the new version includes an Overview section which now contains information about its founding and mission. Part of this tracks with the current section, "Staff and organizational ties". I've changed this to "Personnel" and limited the scope to individuals who currently work with STATS. I've left out additional information about them, focusing instead on their roles with the organization. The biggest difference here is that I've removed tendentious clauses such as the one that says Reason magazine "supports the liberalization of drug laws and needle exchanges." True, but this has nothing to do with STATS.
  • I have changed "Funding" to "Fundraising" and streamlined the list of foundations which have given money to just three of the more important. This version eliminates a reference to the tobacco industry, which has not given money to STATS. Yes, that is true of a related organization, but not the one this article is about. Most significantly, and perhaps most controversially, I suggest removing a reference to ExxonMobil. Its current inclusion is at best highly misleading, at worst completely false. I'll explain: In 2009, a Consumer Reports blog post[1] claimed that "documents Consumer Reports has examined show STATS also has received funding from ExxonMobil." STATS strongly contested this charge at the time, in the comments to that post[2] and on their own blog,[3] challenging CR to show the sources of their claim. The editors did respond, stating[4] that the claim was based on the fact that the largest stock holding of the Scaife Foundation (which has donated to STATS) is ExxonMobil. The CR editors conceded this much, but refused to post a correction. It is of course widespread practice for foundations to hold money in stocks, but nobody says those corporations are "donating" to the foundations. CR has conflated these different types of relationships, and they have admitted as much. Meanwhile, STATS's tax records are in fact public information, available from Media Matters[5] (a critic of STATS, for what it's worth) and, of course, only foundations listed. STATS is quite adamant that it does not accept donations from private companies, so while removing the mention of ExxonMobil I have added this point.
  • The biggest omission, I think, is any description of what STATS actually does. The current version includes a section called "Notable cases of media criticism" which is just a review of a book the organization released. So I've retitled this "Activities" and added information about their annual Dubious Data Awards, commentary during election years and a 2007 climate change survey which received notice at the time. Note that these are also supported by reliable sources.

And that's about all. The new version is still a fairly short article, but one that is more informative, portraying STATS in a neutral manner, and critical outlet Salon still gets a say. I would move it into the mainspace myself but for my potential conflict of interest, and I'm certainly happy to discuss this further if you have any questions. Or if you think the proposed version is better than the current and are OK with me moving it over, just say so. Thanks, NMS Bill (talk) 16:16, 28 July 2010 (UTC)

I agree that the article can be improved, and it suffers a bit from iffy sourcing and lack of focus. I agree that we can do a better job describing what STATS actually does. If possible, though, we should limit the number of references to STATS press releases and websites, in favor of independent, reliable sources. Over-reliance on promotional material, press releases, etc tends to make an article sound less encyclopedic and more promotional, and that's one minor concern I have about the proposed version in your userspace. Other comments:
  • Pending a more detailed look at the Exxon funding thing, I suppose a blog from Consumer Reports isn't a great source for such a major claim. However, your version goes too far in obscuring the actual source of STATS' funding, in my opinion. You mention the foundations which fund STATS; these should be identified inline as "politically conservative", since they are all politically conservative (to say the least). This unifying factor in STATS' funding is notable and has been remarked upon by independent, reliable sources. Which brings me to another concern...
  • What happened to this article in your proposed revision? It looks to me like independent media coverage of STATS, and thus the sort of source that is appropriate for our article, but it seems to have gone missing in your revision.
  • We should be careful about our use of the word "non-partisan". STATS is clearly non-partisan in terms of the US tax code. As our article makes clear, that is typically a self-applied designation and carries specific tax implications. On the other hand, "non-partisan" in political-science terminology carries very different connotations. It has been suggested that STATS is not "non-partisan" in this latter sense, which is actually the more common vernacular usage. So we need to be clear about the different definitions of "non-partisan" if we're going to apply the descriptor.
  • I'm not sure I support removing all mention of former employees. Where notable individuals have worked for the organization in the past (especially in a founding role), it may still be appropriate to mention them even if they have since moved on.
  • I do not agree with removing the linkage to Center for Media and Public Affairs. This linkage has been drawn by independent, reliable sources, and the two organizations have apparently shared the same offices, mailing address and tax records. That suggests a very tight and notable linkage between the two.
Thanks for bringing these suggestions here for discussion. MastCell Talk 19:52, 28 July 2010 (UTC)
Hello, MastCell, thanks for taking the time to review this. I agree with some of your suggestions, and have responses to some others. I'll take them point by point:
  • About the use of primary sources; I've used them scrupulously, in line with my best understanding of WP:PRIMARY and WP:RS, and the majority of sources used here are secondary. That said, I went back to the sources and found that I was using the press releases more than I needed to. In one case, the Associated Press article covered it, while elsewhere, indepdendent sources were already taking care of it. What's left does serve clear informational purposes, such as the STATS website explaining staff roles within the organization.
  • Glad we're in agreement about ExxonMobil. And I am fine with noting that the foundations are "politically conservative" as that's certainly true. If you check my version of the article now, I've added it now.
  • The Kissinger-Rust story from the Journal Sentinel, in the current version of the article, is mostly used to verify very basic information about the organization, such as its leadership. When I prepared the new version, I had mostly found that information in other sources. But it can be used to verify the Scaife Foundation money, so I've added it there now.
  • I hear you about "non-partisan" -- perhaps maybe we should call it a "non-profit educational organization"? That would be consistent with the definition of a 501(c)(3), which STATS is. I've made that change, too.
  • I've also added back David Murray, the former director, and re-included context about most of the current staff. I'd taken it out initally because it was too much, and seemed a little WP:COATRACKy, but I think I went overboard, and I've now arrived at a middle ground.
  • Lastly, I haven't de-linked STATS from the Center for Media and Public Affairs at all. They are listed in the infobox I created, and the article notes that it is a "sister organization" of STATS. The fact that they share offices, etc. sounds a bit conspiratorial in the current version, but that's common to university centers, so there's nothing unusual about it. That's why I changed it to "sister organization".
With these edits made, what do you think of the proposed version now? Looking forward to your response. Cheers, NMS Bill (talk) 15:51, 29 July 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for the quick response. I think you've fully addressed most of the concerns I had. The only sticking point is with the J-S article and the Center for Media and Public Affairs. The J-S article describes CMPA as a "parent organization" of STATS and draws a clear link between the tobacco industry and both CMPA and Licther. The article also questions STATS' association with "anti-regulatory" groups and politics, and I think that's still missing from your draft. I don't think the J-S allegations should be presented as fact - they clearly contain a generous helping of opinion - but something along the lines of "An article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel argued that..." would clarify and attribute the allegations. At the same time, it appears that STATS was critical of the J-S coverage of BPA, arguing that it was overly alarmist, so perhaps that deserves mention as context? Anyhow, that's just one point - I think most of the other concerns I had have been addressed by your changes, so thank you for your quick and constructive response. MastCell Talk 17:09, 29 July 2010 (UTC)
Have a look at the article now; there is a new final paragraph which is a brief summary of both sides. It focuses on the J-S criticism of STATS's activities; as for CMPA being the "parent organization," the STATS response is adamant this is wrong, that the two are separate 501(c)(3) organizations. Plus this article isn't about CMPA; as the headline indicates, STATS's work on BPA coverage was the issue. Hope that makes sense; kooking forward to your reply. NMS Bill (talk) 22:50, 29 July 2010 (UTC)
I suppose that, as more than one editor now seems to consider the matter settled (including the one who marked the request-template as handled), I'll go ahead and move the version over. NMS Bill (talk) 01:12, 4 August 2010 (UTC)