Laurie Taylor column

October 11, 2002

British Journal of Comparative Cultural Studies

From the editor

Dear Dr Piercemuller,

I am sorry to take up your valuable time, but in the wake of the Bell Labs scandal, our editorial board is pursuing a more proactive role in relation to the detection of fabricated data.

I am, therefore, writing with reference to your submitted article "Hello and Pronto: mobile telephone use in Italy and the UK" by Piercemuller and Mastroiani.

Your hypothesis was that the "gregariousness" of Italian culture would ensure that the relative number of social (rather than business) mobile calls made in Italy would exceed that in the UK. This hypothesis was confirmed by a "controlled study" of 5,000 Italian and 5,000 UK mobile users, which found 90 per cent of Italian informants claiming to have used their phone primarily for social reasons (compared with the UK figure of 10 per cent). There were a number of discrepancies in the article that I would like you to address.

1. The figure of "5,000" informants appears in several places, but this changes to "500" in the methodology section, and then to "quite a lot" in the summary

2. Your Italian co-author, Dr Massimo Mastroiani, claims in his correspondence that his entire involvement in the project was limited to sharing a large cappuccino with you in the Piazza del Duomo

3. Our assessors felt that such a clear-cut result (90 per cent Italian users compared with 10 per cent of UK users) was rather surprising (one described the percentages as "figures plucked from the Beano ")

4. There was unease about the manner in which you used your modest empirical findings to throw doubt on the central theoretical formulations of Foucault, Giddens and Stephen Hawking.

I look forward to receiving re-assurances from you. In the meantime, may I thank you for your latest submission - "Lâtté or Látté: coffee drinking in Verona and Poppleton".

Yours sincerely,

G. Abercrombie et al

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