Alert: My Last Article is not Conclusive Proof that Women are Better Winemakers!

June 30, 2015

So, my last blog post "Female Winemakers in California are Generally Better than their Male Counterparts " was my most read blog post yet, with around 1200 readers.  Kind of an odd surprise, as it's just a musing I wrote about to clear my head of AVA appraisal work.  It referenced a really interesting article I read that inspired it.  After reading that article, I thought I'd do a little research of my own and then decided what I saw was pretty interesting and wrote that piece on my blog.  I figured it would help further the discussion about women winemakers, something I think is important, as some of the best winemakers and cellar rats I know are women.  I also thought it would be interesting. The authors of the original article, however, want you to know that the article was not up to their standards.  I guess that's why they're the professors and I'm not.  Anyways, Lew Perdue was contacted by them so they could voice their concerns.  (UPDATE: The link that I posted to their rejoinder has been taken down at the rather unexpected and odd request of the Gilberts.)  Kudos to Lew for recommending that they reach out to me.  They chose not to and did not respond to my phone calls, except to send a curt message asking that I not post their rejoinder to my blog. In any case, if you're interested in a lesson in academic research their rejoinder is educational, but a bit pedantic in the context of a response to the blog.  I'll leave you to find it on your own, I guess.  And, if you'd still like to revel in this much ado about nothing, here is my response to Lew:

 

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Hi Lew,

 

I tried to call Dr. Gilbert, but couldn't get a hold of her and she hasn't returned my call.  Anyways, I guess this is important to her, so let me just weigh in.  Everything the Gilberts have said about my blog post is true.  It is not conclusive academic research or anything even approximating that.  It is not statistically significant.  Nothing on my blog is up to the standards of academia.  The only conclusions I ever draw that are of statistical significance are clearly stated to be so and are almost invariably related to grape price forecasting.  They are also presented along with metrics of statistical significance and accuracy, like p-values, standard deviation, correlations, etc.  But even these are not up to the standards of academia, since I do not share all of my variables, data and/or methods, as they are proprietary.  Why?  I'm not a university, I run a business. 

 

On the other hand, almost every single article in Wine Industry Insight has a headline and draws conclusions that are not up to academic standards.  I think most of your readers likely assume that what they read, be it news articles, blog posts, etc. are primarily fluff.  Hopefully, they take even peer-reviewed, scientific articles with a grain of salt.  I hope no one thought that my post was more than a cursory parsing of available data made with the dual intent of (a) entertainment and, as with the Gilberts, (b) an unbiased look at the data, with the shared goal of, in the Gilberts' words, "illuminating the presence of women winemakers in their roles as lead winemakers and recognizing their significant contributions in a field that remains male dominated."  Note that, since one of the goals is entertainment, I didn't present a bunch of boring explanations of every facet of the data and my methods, something that the Gilberts seem pretty upset with.  I did, of course, share the actual data sets I used so that anyone could check my work or draw their own conclusions.

 

In any case, I definitely didn't mean to in any way demean or degrade the Gilberts' research.  But it is out there in the public sphere and people will analyze and digest it as they will.  I don't think that my using whatever data was available to me and a half hour of my limited free time to make sense of it on my own and explore the topic in any way runs counter to the Gilberts' exhortation that "research is a serious matter."  I appreciate that the Gilberts actually took the time to look through what I wrote, even the spreadsheets, but I'm not sure that every blog post requires a rejoinder, as if it was in a peer-reviewed publication.  Otherwise, the Wine Industry Insight News Fetch would be much longer and more boring. 

 

Finally, I do have to point out that if the Gilberts' goal is "illuminating the presence of women winemakers in their roles as lead winemakers and recognizing their significant contributions in a field that remains male dominated," then maybe I could have crafted a much shorter reply, "You're welcome.  An additional 1200 people were exposed to your research.  Cheers!"

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I guess I should revise my clearly scientific scoring of "Gals 3, Guys 0" to "Science 1, Gals 0."  Oh, and for the record, Lew actually sent my blog post to over 22,000 people.  The 1200 figure refers to the number of people who actually visited the blog post page.

 

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