Friday, May 22, 2009

TSU Professor Says He Will Stop Using "May Town Scholar" Telephone Script

Here is Dr. David Padgett's latest comment at PiTW:
As of today I have asked my students to immediately CEASE and DESIST using the script in question. Why? Because it has been a poor tool for collecting data on stakeholders' environmental perception of the May Town Project. In order for us to be successful, we must have data. I estimate that 95 percent of the people we have called either have hung up immediately, or never answered at all.

We will move to more scientifically sound methods such as focus groups, qualitative observation, and a voluntary online survey. All future data collection methods will have to pass the muster of the TSU Internal Review Board evaluation process.
First, why wasn't this project submitted to a review board of research specialists to begin with, given its use of human subjects on a controversial political issue? The script is ethically questionable given its leading nature, and I don't see that great amounts of objective data could be culled from it. I question the prudence of using biased language on an issue of public interest, and the consequences of imprudence on human subjects could be harmful.

Second, I'm concerned that the damage has already been done by the "May Town Scholars." The prospect that human subjects may have been steered toward the developers' political persuasion on zoning, planning and development issues is troubling. The fact that Dr. Padgett would jettison the script so quickly under a firestorm of protest indicates to me that it might have already served its intended political purpose.

Finally, I don't think that the May Town Scholars should be allowed anywhere close to a serious academic research study involving May Town Center, Bordeaux/Scottsboro/Bells Bend, or Bells Landing Partners, LLC. They've received their reward: $50,000. They should take their money and walk away from this issue.

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