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Richard Tol: This says more about the ESRI's professionalism than mine

The academic who co-authored the controversial article which was withdrawn by the ESRI said he stands over his findings.

Richard Tol
Richard Tol
Image: Screengrab via Youtube

RICHARD TOL, THE academic who co-authored the controversial working paper which was withdrawn by the ESRI last night, has said that he stands over his findings.

The working paper, which claimed that 44 per cent of families with young children would be better off on the dole than working, has been taken down from the ESRI website following what the think-tank called ‘serious methodological issues’.

“As far as I know, the numbers are still correct and I still stand over them,” Tol said on RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland this morning. He said that the figure of 44 per cent is correct in reference to parents with young children who need to avail of private childcare.

He acknowledged that there were “serious issues” with the data as there was no data set “that really goes to the heart of this” but said he was satisfied with the information used in the paper.

Tol said he did not feel that his professionalism is being called into question by the withdrawal of the paper.

I’ve absolutely no problem with my professionalism here. You may say something about the ESRI’s professionalism but not about mine.

Tol said he was not party to the decision to withdraw the paper and said he did not know why the ESRI had done so.

“We sent the paper to a journal, it came back for major revisions but that was mostly in the form of the flow of the paper and the way we set up the argument should be revised, and in addition the journal asked for additional analyses but it did not actually contest the bottom line conclusion,” he said.

“I don’t know why this decision was made or what pressure led to this decision,” Tol said.

He said he had no knowledge of whether political pressure was exerted. “It could have happened, the unions may also have tried to pull strings”.

Told added that the paper is currently being revised but said there is ‘no reason to change the conclusions”. He said that the paper will probably be published as a working paper of the University of Sussex, where Tol is a professor in the department of economics, and re-submitted to the journal.

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Frances Ruane, the director of the ESRI, said that colleagues who had examined the paper said there were serious methodological issues with the paper. The nature of working papers is that they are the responsibility of the authors, not the ESRI, and it was not an ESRI publication, she said.

There are over 400 working papers up on the ESRI website and she said she did not know why this particular one found its way into the public discussion.

Ruane emphasised that she had not been in contact with the government before the decision was made.

“It is not a day I would like to have repeated again,” she said.

Read the working paper here >

ESRI paper which said many would be better off on dole withdrawn >

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