Academic finds evidence of data fabrication in Iraqi death toll report

Research by Professor Michael Spagat of the Department of Economics at Royal Holloway, University of London, examining the Iraq war death toll, is published in the latest issue of ‘Defense and Peace Economics′.

Professor Spagat's research analyses the high-profile Burnham et al (2006) survey that estimated 601,000 violent deaths in the Iraq war and says it is unreliable, invalid and unethical and resulted in an exaggeration of the death toll.

“According to the study all credible evidence suggests that a large number of people have been killed in the Iraq war. However, injecting inflated and unsupportable numbers into this discussion undermines our understanding of the conflict and could incite further violence”, says Professor Spagat.

Entitled ‘Ethical and Data-Integrity Problems in the Second Lancet Survey of Mortality in Iraq’, the paper divides the evidence of data fabrication and falsification into nine broad categories and includes: Evidence suggesting that the figure of 601,000 violent deaths was extrapolated from two earlier surveys and unlikely patterns in the confirmations of violent deaths through the viewing of death certificates and in the patterns on when deaths certificates were requested and when they were not.

Professor Spagat says a few of these anomalies could occur by chance but it is extremely unlikely that all of them could have occurred randomly and simultaneously. (All nine categories can be viewed by visiting

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