Statistical Assessment Service

Statistical Assessment Service (STATS)

Background

The Statistical Assessment Service (STATS), a 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1993, described itself as a nonprofit and nonpartisan “resource on the use and abuse of science and statistics in the media” with the goal “to correct scientific misinformation in the media and in public policy resulting from bad science, politics, or a simple lack of information or knowledge; and to act as a resource for journalists and policy makers on major scientific issues and controversies.” The group is also listed under the alias “Science Literacy Project.[1], [2]

According to an archive of their website, in 2004 STATS became an affiliate of George Mason University in Virginia. STATS also described itself as a “sister organization” to the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) at George Mason University. According to 2005-2006 tax records (PDF), “salary costs for the organization [STATS] are shared with the Center for Media and Public Affairs,” and that both organizations share a relationship of “common control” with shared offices in “K Street,” the lobbying district of Washington. [1], [3], [4]

As of 2015, STATS no longer listed their connection to George Mason University, and had removed the GMU logo from the website header. According to their listed mission statement on Guidestar, the Statistical Assessment Service is made up of two main components, and STATS.org is now a project of Sense About Science USA: [5] 

“We have two components: Sense About Science USA, who's [sic] goal is to promote scientific evidence and transparency in society and to equip the public, journalists, and policy makers with the tools and information to make sense of science. The second is STATS.org, a website and educational project to analyze and explain numbers and statistics in the news and to promote statistical literacy in the media and society. STATS.org is a joint project of the American Statistical Association and Sense About Science USA.” [5] 

The 2015 revamp of the STATS website also offered a brief outline of the group's changes over the years and listed a founding date of 1993 as opposed to 1994: [6]

STATS began life in 1993 as an attempt to point out that statistical knowledge was essential to understanding the world; and as we relied on the news media for so much knowledge about the world, it was vital that journalists understood how to interpret statistics and report them accurately. Hence, the name of our newsletter: VitalStats.

“Scroll forward to 2004 and STATS had become an affiliate of George Mason University; the newsletter had become a website, STATS.org. 

”[…] and here we are, with the third incarnation of STATS, as a collaboration between the American Statistical Association and Sense About Science USA.” [6]

While STATS describes itself as a “non-profit, non-partisan organization,” its funders are not transparent, and it has repeatedly “attacked environmentalists, civil libertarians, feminists and other 'liberals',” according to SourceWatch. SourceWatch also notes that the original director of STATS, David Murray, did not have an academic background in statistics, bat rather in anthropology, even though he was often cited as a statistician by the media. [7]

George Mason University Ties

According to Polluterwatch, STATS operated from 2004 to 2014 as a sister organization of George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA). The Genetic Literacy Project (GLP) was an independently functioning project formed within STATS which also maintained ties to George Mason University. [8]

CMPA no longer lists any connection to STATS on their website, apart from the biography of S. Robert Lichter, Professor of Communications at George Mason University, who directs both the Center for Media and Public Affairs and the Statistical Assessment Service. [9]

A December 2013 GMU study lists a header with a shared address for the CMPA and The Statistical Assessment Service, both at George Mason University: [10]

CMPA, STATS, and GMU Header

In 2015, the STATS.org website no longer listed its connection to George Mason University and described itself as a part of Sense About Science USA, which names George Mason University’s Math department as a partner, but makes no mention of the Center of Media and Public Affairs under which STATS formerly operated. STATS.org now redirects to SenseaboutscienceUSA.org.

Sense About Science USA was launched in late 2014 and partners with the pro-GMO Alliance for Science. [11]

Genetic Literacy Project (GLP)

The Genetic Literacy Project, described by U.S. Right to Know as “a central player in Monsanto and the agrichemical industry’s public relations efforts to promote genetically engineered foods and pesticides,” was formerly connected to STATS but later denied this connection. [12]

The following was posted on a 2012 archive of the GLP's website: [13]

“Statistical Assessment Service
The GLP is affiliated with STATS, which is a non-profit, non-partisan resource on the use and abuse of science and statistics in the media. Its goals are to correct scientific misinformation on public policy issues resulting from bad science, politics, or a simple lack of information or knowledge; and to act as a resource for journalists and policy makers on scientific issues and controversies. Two of its executives play a crucial role in overseeing the work of the GLPS. Robert Lichter, President of STATS, Professor of Communication at George Mason University and President of the Center for Media and Public Affairs holds a Ph.D. in government from Harvard University and has also served on the faculties of Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Georgetown and George Washington Universities; and Donald Rieck, Executive Director, who received his MA in Political Science and MBA from Temple University.”

Center for Health & Risk Communication, GMU
The GLP and STATS are affiliated with the CHRC, which provides an organizational framework for stimulating innovative health and risk communication research collaborations, health promotion intervention projects and community interventions. […]” [13]

A revised statement on the GLP's website, as of March 29, 2016, read as follows: [14]

“The Washington, DC office of the GLP-founded and independently run GENeS project has an office in the University of California Washington, DC building but receives no university support of any kind, including for the office itself. The GLP has no affiliation with George Mason University (and never had an affiliation with GMU) or with the Statistical Assessment Service, which is now defunct. From 2011-2014, GLP operated as an independent entity within STATS, which provided accounting services to the GLP, until the GLP was able to secure independent 501c3 status in 2015. GLP was not involved in STATS activities.” [14]

While there was no official statement on the STATS.org website that it had dissolved at this time, between January 1, 2015 and January 28, 2015, the STATS website rebranded from “STATS” to “STATS.org” and cleared any mention of George Mason University. Under the new description, STATS.org described itself as “a joint project of the American Statistical Association and Sense About Science USA.” [15], [16], [17]

As of March, 2017, the STATS.org website redirected to Senseaboutscienceusa.org/stats.

Interestingly, the 2012 statement on the GLP website lists the Genetic Literacy Project as “a division of the Science Literacy Project.” According to nonprofit filings at the Economic Research Institute (ERI), the “Science Literacy Project” is also an alias of STATS[2]

Stance on Climate Change

April 4, 2008

STATS commissioned a study by Harris Interactive on climate change views. According to the interpretation of S. Robert Lichter: [18]

“Scientists are still debating the dynamics and dangers of global warming.” [18]

Below is a list of 1996 - 2001 “Global Warming & Climate Change” articles linked on the STATS Website:

Funding

The 2015 revamp of the STATS.org website offered a revised “note on funding”[6]

STATS.org is a non-profit and non-partisan project; it is funded by a grant from the Searle Freedom Trust and a donation from the American Statistical Association; it does not accept industry funding or support.” [6]

In 2013, STATS also claimed on their website that “We do not take money from industry or industry-related groups.” [19] 

Conservative Transparency has documented STATS funding from several conservative sources. Totals are detailed below, including totals from publicly available 990 tax records. [20]

View the attached spreadsheet for details on STATS funding by year (.xlsx).

Donor Total
Searle Freedom Trust $1,344,000
Sarah Scaife Foundation $1,050,000
The Randolph Foundation $895,400
John M. Olin Foundation $450,000
Castle Rock Foundation $165,000
William H. Donner Foundation $125,000
The Carthage Foundation $100,000
Earhart Foundation $100,000
DonorsTrust $86,000
John Templeton Foundation $33,750
JM Foundation $25,000
Grand Total $4,374,150

990 Forms

Key People (2017)

As of 2017, the following people were listed in the Sense About Science/STATS website. [21]

Board of Directors

Name Description
April Clyburne-Sherin Campaign Manager, AllTrials USA
Carey Reed Communications Director
Cristy St. John Outreach and Education Manager, AllTrials USA
Neda Afsarmanesh Adviser, Scientifically Speaking
Rebecca Goldin Director of STATs.org
Trevor Butterworth Editor

Advisory Board

Name Description
Andrea Foulkes Professor, Mount Holyoke College
Andrew Bray Advisory Board. Assistant Professor, Mt. Holyoke
Giles Hooker Associate Professor, Cornell University
Jenna Krall Assistant Professor, George Mason University
Karla Ballman Division Chief, Weill Cornell Medicine
Kristin Sainani Associate Professor, Stanford University
Michael Lavine Professor, UMass Amherst
Patrick McKnight Associate Professor, George Mason University
Peter Imrey Professor, Cleveland Clinic
Rebecca Goldin Director of STATs.org
Regina Nuzzo Associate Professor, Gallaudet University
Tian Zheng Associate Professor, Columbia University

Staff

Name Description
April Clyburne-Sherin Campaign Manager, AllTrials USA
Carey Reed Communications Director
Cristy St. John Outreach and Education Manager, AllTrials USA
Neda Afsarmanesh Adviser, Scientifically Speaking
Rebecca Goldin Director of STATs.org
Trevor Butterworth Editor

Key People (1998 – 2014)

Board of Directors

Name 2000 2001 2002 2003 2005 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 Description
Nell Minow Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Treasurer & Secretary of the Board. Editor, the Corporatelibrary.com
Dodie McCracken Y Y Y Y Y Board Member. Chief Executive Officer, Arcadian Partners 
Truman Anderson Y Y Y Y Y Chairman of the Board. Executive Director, Stuart Family Foundation
Heather C. Dahl Y Y Y Y Board Member. Director, Analyst Relations, Neustar, Inc.
Paul Mongerson Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Board Member. CEO, Stanadyne (Ret.) President and Director, CAMDAT Foundation
David Gergen Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Board Member. Professor of Public Service, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government
Newton Minow Y Y Y Y Y Y Board Member Emeritus. Former Chairman, Federal Communications Commission
Danielle Struppa Y Y Y Y Board Member. Chancellor Chapman University.
S. Robert Lichter Y Y Y Y Y Y President & Editor in Chief
Donald Rieck Y Executive Director
Linda S. Lichter Y Y Y Y Y Vice President
Robert D. Stuart, Jr. Y Y Y Director
Paul McCracken Y Y Y Y Director
Linda L. Ladas Y Y Secretary/Treasurer (07/0202/03)
Thomas C. Childers Y Y Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania
Chris Messina-Boyer Y Director

Staff

Name 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 Description
S. Robert Lichter Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y President & Editor in Chief
Maia Szalavitz Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Senior Fellow
Trevor Butterworth Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Editor at Large
Rebecca Goldin Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Director of Research
Nirit Weiss Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Contributing Editor
Donald Rieck Y Y Y Y Y Y Executive Director
Jon Entine Y Y Y Y Senior Fellow
Geoffrey Kabat Y Contributing Editor
Stephen Rose Y Y Y Y Y Y Senior Fellow
Randall Mayes Y Y Senior Fellow
Matthew Felling Y Y Y Y Media Director
Linda S. Lichter Y Y Y Y Y Y Vice President
Ana Marie Cox Y
Christine Messina-Boyer Y Y Y Y Managing Director
Howard Fienberg Y Y Y Y Senior Analyst
Iain Murray Y Y Y Y Director of Research
Erica Bell Y Research Assistant
David Murray Y Y Y Y Director
Margie Singleton Y Y Publications Manager
Beth Lemanowicz Y Research Assistant
Donna Talbert Y Director of Development
Kimberly Castro Y Research Assistant
Kristin Inglesby Y Y Director of Development
Heather Robinson Y Publications Assistant
Maryana Silverman Y Research Assistant
Steven Tom Y Research Assistant
Bryan Kim Y Research Analyst
Emily Danyluk Y Research Assistant
Robert Mulligan Y Executive Director
Tara Hartnett Y Director of Communication
Thomas Riley Y Senior Analyst

Advisory Board

Name 1998 1999 2002 2007 2013 2014 Description
Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann Y Y Y Y Y Y President, Allensbach Institut fur Demoskopie
Harrison Pope Y Y Y Y Y Y Director, Biological Psychiatry Laboratory, Harvard Medical School
Humphrey Taylor Y Y Y Y Y Y CEO & President, Louis Harris and Associates
Neil Gilbert Y Y Y Y Y Y Professor of Social Welfare, University of California Berkeley
Nelson Polsby Y Y Y Y Y Y Director, Institute of Government Studies, University of California Berkeley
Nicholas Eberstadt Y Y Y Y Y Y Fellow, Center for Population Studies, Harvard University
Stephen Strauss Y Y Y Y Y Y Toronto Globe and Mail
Thomas C. Childers Y Y Y Y Y Y Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania
Wolfgang Donsbach Y Y Y Y Y Y President, World Association of Opinion Research
Scott O. Lilienfeld Y Y Y Professor of Psychology, Emory University
James Q. Wilson Y Y Y Y Y Professor of Political Science
Sallie Baliunas Y Y Y Y Senior Scientist
Stanley Rothman Y Y Y Professor of Government, Smith College
Everett Ladd Y Y Director, Roper Public Opinion Center
John DiIulio Y Y Professor of Government, Princeton University

Actions

June 5, 2013

The Statistical Assessment Service's Jon Entine (STATS Senior fellow and Executive Director of the Genetic Literacy Project) is a signatory to Center for Industrial Progress' letter titled, “Don’t Divest, Educate—An Open Letter to American Universities.” [22]

In the letter, Alex Epstein and several other notable climate change deniers, including Peter FerraraJ. Scott ArmstrongSteve GorehamS. Fred SingerDavid SchnareRichard Lindzen, and Matt Ridley, proclaim that they are “proud to stand in favor of fossil fuels.” [22]

The “undersigned scientists, philosophers, energy experts, and economists” of the letter ask for a “more rigorous education on energy and environmental issues,” and “are willing to debate anytime, anywhere to defend what [they] believe is right.” [22]

April, 2008

STATS commissioned a study of climate scientists, conducted by Harris Interactive®. STATs reported that “Over eight out of ten American climate scientists believe that human activity contributes to global warming.” The study, entitled “Climate Scientists Agree on Warming, Disagree on Dangers, and Don't Trust the Media's Coverage of Climate Change” was released on April 24, 2008. [18]

According to the STATS interpretation of the results, “scientists are still debating the dynamics and dangers of global warming” and “Only 29% [of scientists] express a “great deal of confidence” that scientists understand the size and extent of anthropogenic [human] sources of greenhouse gases.” [18]

1998

In an article titled WARM FRONT: Print Media and Climate Change Coverage,” STATS described a “problem with the reportage involving global warming,” contrasting the view of Ross Gelbspan, who has written that a small group of industry-backed skeptics are dominating the debate, with the opposing view that “the dominant media have been not only neglectful of the full story, but they have actively muzzled contrary information at the same time they have credulously swallowed and amplified tenuous positive evidence.” [23]

The STATS discounts Gelbspan's view, and goes ont o describe journalists “like trout in a media stream” who “seem to be practicing a version of what is termed 'rational ignorance:' the use of stereotype and prejudice as a rational response to a world overwhelming in detail or too challenging in scientific appraisal.” [23]

STATS claims that “no one has established what the 'majority of climate scientists' actually think” regarding how much warming has occurred over the last 100 or last 50 years. It goes on to criticize a report from Ozone Action. Regarding man-made influence on climate change, STATS claimed “there is not a firm consensus.” [23]

April 1997

The STATS Newsletter, VitalSTATS, highlighted research by climate change denier John Christy who they describe as a “satellite guru” and claimed that he rebutted claims that satellite data (which they write showed a cooling trend) were inaccurate. [24]

Social Media

Contact

2016–2017 Contact/ Address

Statistical Assessment Service shares the same contact information with Sense About Science USA. On their website they state: [25], [26]

“Sense About Science USA is in the back of a bakery and cafe. We don’t have fancy offices; we put our money into doing; every little bit helps.”

STATS shared an address with a bakery cafe called One Girl Cookies[27] 

68 Dean Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA
1-917-635-2081

http://www.stats.org/

2015 Contact/Address

As of 2015, STATS listed itself as a joint project of the American Statistical Association and Sense About Science USA. It listed the following contact: [6]

Sense About Science USA
155 Water Street
Suite 4/12
Brooklyn, NY 11201

2013 Contact/ Address

The following was listed on the STATS “Contribute” page[19] 

Statistical Assessment Service
2100 L Street N.W., Suite 300
Washington DC 20037

The STATS website footer listed a different address: [28]

Statistical Assessment Service

933 N. Kenmore St., Suite 405, Arlington, VA 22201

tel: 571.319.0029

Related Organizations

Resources

  1. About Stats,” STATS. Archived December 7, 2013. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/kAy2H

  2. Nonprofit Organization Information: Science Literacy Project,” Economic Research Institute. Archived July 23, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/lrenp

  3. Stats.org homepage. Archived December 24, 2013. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/0Mmrd

  4. Statistical Assessment Service, 2006 Annual Return (PDF), STATS page 15.

  5. Statistical Assessment Service,” Guidestar. Accessed July 21, 2017.

  6. About,” STATS.org. Archived April 5, 2015. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/JlXg4

  7. Statistical Assessment Service,” SourceWatch.

  8. “John Entine,” Polluterwatch. Archived July 23, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/4zkyc

  9. Staff Biographies,” CMPA. Archived July 23, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/6M8nd 

  10. “Expert Opinion on Regulatory Risk Assessment” (PDF), George Mason University. Retrieved from CMPA.gmu.edu. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  11. About,” Sense of SCIENCE USA. Archived July 21, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/b1uKe

  12. Jon Entine and Genetic Literacy Project Spin Chemical Industry PR,” US Right to Know, July 18, 2017. Archived July 23, 2017. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/WLB7j

  13. Mission: Statistical Assessment Service,” Genetic Literacy Project. Archived October 25, 2012. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/og7hd

  14. Mission: Genetic Literacy Project, a division of the Science Literacy Project,” Genetic Literacy Project. Archived March 29, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/wmeKF

  15. Homepage, Stats.org. Archived March 28, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/ISaSZ

  16. Homepage, Stats.org. Archived January 1, 2015. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/tvdjQ

  17. Homepage, Stats.org. Archived January 28, 2015. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/tvdjQ

  18. S. Robert Lichter. “Climate Scientists Agree on Warming, Disagree on Dangers, and Don't Trust the Media's Coverage of Climate Change,” STATS, April 4, 2008. Archived May 16, 2008. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/XSB7c

  19. Contribute,” Statistical Assessment Service. Archived March 30, 2013. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/Ombdk

  20. Statistical Assessment Service,” Conservative Transparency. Accessed July 23, 2017.

  21. Who We Are,” Sense About Science USA. Archived July 24, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/jXvbQ

  22. Alex Epstein. “Don’t Divest, Educate—An Open Letter to American Universities,” Center for Industrial Progress, June 5, 2013. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  23. WARM FRONT: Print Media and Climate Change Coverage.” STATS Spotlight.

  24. Here's a Hot One.” VitalSTATS, April 1997. Archived August 20, 2002. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/H9dqA

  25. “Contact STATS,” Statistical Assessment Service. Archived May 28, 2016.

  26. “Home,” Sense About Science USA. Archived May 28, 2016.

  27. “Contact,” One Girl Cookies. Archived May 28, 2016.

  28. Contact US,” STATS. Archived April 11, 2013. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/yIf2V

Other Resources

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