How (not) to deal with missing data: An economist’s take on a controversial study

Februaury 21, 2024 Article by Gary Smith on Retraction Watch.

Economist Gary Smith digs into a published study on green innovations that failed to disclose missing pieces of its dataset. Rather than presenting an incomplete study, the authors inferred values for the missing sections with trend lines and copy and paste from other data sources.

“The student contacted Heshmati and eventually obtained spreadsheets of the data he had used in the paper. Heshmati acknowledged that, although he and his coauthor had not mentioned this fact in the paper, the data had gaps. He revealed in an email that these gaps had been filled by using Excel’s autofill function: ‘We used (forward and) backward trend imputations to replace the few missing unit values….using 2, 3, or 4 observed units before or after the missing units.’”