IET Refuse to Show Their Working

Like many who watched the manned lunar expeditions of 1969 – 72 live on TV I was a little disconcerted to find that a survey for the Insititute of Engineering and Technology has shown that one in four Britons do not believe that men have walked on the Moon.

To quote from the article linked to above:

“Twenty-five per cent of the British public refuse to believe man has walked on the Moon, a survey conducted on behalf of E&T magazine has revealed.”

Furthermore, only 68% knew the year the Apollo 11 flight occurred (11% thought it was in the 1980s) and allegedly 1% thought the first man on the Moon was Buzz Lightyear though I strongly suspect a few surveyees were taking the piss when they gave that answer.

Anyway, there is an email link in the article so I clicked it and sent the following:

From: [my email address]
Sent: 19 July 2009 23:26
Subject: Disbelief in Lunar Landings

I read your article claiming that one in four Britons do not believe the Lunar landings actually took place.

I would be grateful if you could let me know the exact wording of the question(s) asked and the responses to them.

Thanking you in advance for your time

Yours sincerely

John Hawcock

This was passed on to Dickon Ross, the Editor-in-Chief of Engineering & Technology magazine who responded as follows:

“Certainly we can forward you some details of the research, could I just ask – so that we send the appropriate facts – are you a journalist or is this something for your own information?”

To which I replied:

“Dear Mr Ross

Thank you for your rapid response to my query.

To answer your question, I am a science blogger. My blog is at if you want to see the sort of stuff I write.

Yours sincerely

John Hawcock

The reply:

“From: Ross,Dickon
Sent: 22 July 2009 15:57
To: [my email address]
Subject: RE: Disbelief in Lunar Landings

The question for the disbelief angle was:

Q1. Do you believe that the astronauts of Apollo 11 actually landed on the moon?

To which 75% said no, 25% yes

Dickon Ross”

Followed rapldly by a correction:

“Sorry, that should be the other way around! 75% said yes, 25% no

Dickon Ross
Editor in Chief”

This didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, so I sought clarification:

“From: [my email address]
Sent: 23 July 2009 17:50
To: Ross,Dickon
Subject: Re: Disbelief in Lunar Landings

Thank you for that. I also received your “other way round” correction!

A couple of points occur to me.

1. You give this as “Q1”. Were there other questions, if so what were they and what were the responses?

2. You give the responses as percentages. What were the actual nimbers? Did no-one respond with some varient of “don’t know/not sure”?

Thank you again for your time.

John Hawcock.”

Which earned the reply:

“If you want to know a specific one then I may be able to find one.

The actual numbers are the percentages of 1009 adults. It was a structured survey.

I’m sorry John but I can’t give away all our survey results except for background to press doing stories – it cost us money!”

Well, that’s me told! Can’t the residents of the blogosphere thinking they’re proper writers! Big Pharma might want to make use of the “you can’t look at our data, it cost us money to produce” excuse.

On a serious note, science only works if methods as well as conclusions are held up to scrutiny. This is true whether it be interpretation of drug trial data on the suitability of a drug, or a suggestion that one Briton in four does not believe that a well documented historical event actually took place. It is a shame that a major professional institute does not realise this.

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3 Responses to “IET Refuse to Show Their Working”

  1. GrumpyBob Says:

    You might proof-read your opening paragraph, which doesn’t square with the quote you give…
    I find the moon landing conspiracy theorists quite astonishing, and even more astonishing has been the BBC coverage of their views lately.

  2. jaycueaitch Says:

    Blooper corrected. Thanks for pointing it out.

  3. jdc325 Says:

    I’ve had similar experiences when requesting information. I’ve come to the conclusion that asking for data “for your own information” is frowned on and that this sort of thing is only provided to “proper” writers – you know, those ever-accurate journalists who never distort or mislead. One of the organisations that has been reticent about providing information is a public body and I have submitted a FOIA request. The twenty days they are allowed in order to deal with the request run out on Monday next week, so hopefully I will finally get the info I originally requested on the 18th May.

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