Controversial Data Imputation Methods Used in Green Innovations Study Raise Questions of Integrity

A study on green innovations and patents in 27 countries has come under scrutiny for its questionable data imputation methods, raising concerns about the integrity of the research.

Last year, a study on green innovations and patents conducted by two economics professors in Europe made waves for its findings. However, a closer examination of the study has revealed controversial data imputation methods used by the authors. The revelations have sparked a debate about the integrity of the research and the implications of such practices in the field of economics.

The Shocking Discovery

A PhD student in economics, who had access to the same data used in the study, discovered significant gaps in the dataset. The authors of the study had made no mention of these gaps and claimed to have a “balanced panel data.” The student reached out to the lead author, Almas Heshmati, for clarification on how the missing data was handled. Heshmati admitted to using Excel’s autofill function to fill in the missing values, without providing clear justification for this approach. This revelation left the student dumbfounded and concerned about the validity of the research.

Controversial Data Imputation Techniques

Data imputation, the process of replacing missing observations with substitute values, is a common practice in economics. However, there are established methods for imputation, each with its own limitations and implications for data analysis. Heshmati’s use of Excel’s autofill function, without proper justification or adherence to established methods, raised eyebrows among experts. This haphazard approach to data imputation can invalidate statistical analyses and compromise the integrity of research findings.

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Copying Data from Adjacent Countries

The student’s investigation revealed an even more troubling aspect of Heshmati’s data imputation methods. In cases where there were no observations to use for autofill, Heshmati had copied data from adjacent countries in the spreadsheet. This practice resulted in thousands of imputed values, including missing values for the study’s outcome variables. Experts characterized this approach as cheating and a breach of academic integrity.

Journal Publication and Lack of Response

The paper, titled “Green innovations and patents in OECD countries,” was published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, a reputable publication. However, the journal and its editors have not responded to inquiries about the controversy surrounding the study. The lack of response raises questions about the publication’s commitment to maintaining rigorous standards and addressing concerns raised by the academic community.

Author’s Response and Responsibility

Heshmati, the lead author of the study, initially claimed that his co-author was aware of the data imputation methods used. However, he later acknowledged his responsibility for the imputations and the failure to explain the procedure in the paper. Experts argue that transparency and proper documentation of data imputation methods are crucial for maintaining the integrity of research.


The use of controversial data imputation methods in the study on green innovations and patents has raised serious concerns about the integrity of the research. Haphazard imputation techniques and the copying of data from adjacent countries undermine the credibility of the findings. The lack of response from the journal and its editors further highlights the need for greater transparency and accountability in academic publishing. It is essential for researchers to adhere to established methods and clearly document their data imputation procedures to ensure the reliability of their research.

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