Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Survey results

Does anyone still believe in unbiased survey results? Was there ever such a thing as unbiased results? Will there ever be?
I don’t know how it could be possible to believe that there are no forces bending the results one way or the other. The world runs on commerce and if that commerce is interrupted everyone suffers. Those directly involved with whatever the survey subject happens to be are affected more than anyone else.
Regardless of who does the survey, someone has to pay for it. The company actually doing the study may have every intention of being fair and unbiased. However, they are aware, even through supposition that someone is paying for that study. If the survey group wants future work they will be strongly motivated to make sure their customer is happy.
If the study concerns the effects of second-hand smoke, for example it’s logical to assume the study has been funded by a cancer group. If you want to do a study in the future for that same customer the results of your study will be positive for the detrimental effects of second-hand smoke.
Where did the study subjects live? Did they live down-wind (or up-wind) of a major chemical facility? Is there a large coal-fired generator in the area?
If there is a study done of the effects of exhaust from an industrial facility what are the parameters built in to the study? Do we test air both down-wind and up-wind? What type of equipment is used to collect samples?
Once we’ve taken air samples, for what will they be tested? Are we testing for compounds that are used by the industrial facility in question? During the manufacturing process – due to heat or other factors – perhaps there is another compound created that should be tested for? Perhaps something has been created that the study group has no way of knowing is present. Perhaps it’s an entirely new creation that no one is aware is dangerous.
In addition to air tests, perhaps indigenous wildlife should be tested?
Do any test subjects, wildlife or human, have a genetic dispensation to be affected by the chemicals in question? Do any subjects have a tendency to shake off the results of invasions by chemicals?
Several times studies have been done on the effects of wolves on the populations of both area livestock and wild prey. If the studies are paid for by ranchers one could come to believe that wolves will destroy the cattle industry. If the study is paid for by the World Wildlife Fund one might come to believe the foolishness that wolves eat only mice.

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