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LETTERS TO THE EDITORS

Statistically Speaking

To the Editors:

Obviously, plagiarism is wrong. However, in Andrew Gelman and Thomas Basbøl’s Macroscope column “To Throw Away Data: Plagiarism as a Statistical Crime” (May–June), I found their argument that it is a statistical crime unconvincing. In the paradigm case they cite, a statistician mentioned a poem from the Times Literary Supplement without attribution to illustrate a management theory as if it were a true anecdote. To me, that is not a statistical crime. Citing a true anecdote is citing a sample of one. From a purely statistical point of view that is the same as citing no case at all, or citing a poem. This particular example of plagiarism is rather a psychological crime, since psychologically, it does seem to matter if someone can back up a hypothesis with a true story.

Rinie Hoogendoorn
Utrecht, The Netherlands


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