The Chronicle of Higher Education published a lengthy article today on the suit between Lott and Levitt. Of particular interest is that the author interviewed Gary King and an economist on the meaning of replication. King acknowledged that replication is used to mean different things, but the article discusses what might become Lott's amended argument. Although the complaint speaks of the meaning of replication "in the world of academic research and scholarship," Lott may argue he is referring only to its meaning in the world of economics research and scholarship. The article contains this response to King's broader view of the term:
Florenz Plassmann, an associate professor of economics at the State University of New York at Binghamton who has collaborated with Mr. Lott, disagreed. Mr. King's perspective might hold true for political science, Mr. Plassmann said, but not for economics. "I cannot recall a single instance in applied economic analysis," he wrote in an e-mail message to The Chronicle, "where 'replicate' was used in any way other than 'repeat the analysis with the same data and the same method and check whether you get the same results.'"
This argument is echoed in a comment posted at Overlawyered by Benjamin Zycher, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. In part, Zycher said, "In the context of refereed economics journals, 'replicate' has one meaning only: The use of an author's data and model to ensure that falsification of findings is not an issue."
As the Chronicle explains, even if the narrow meaning of replication is the exclusive one in economics, Levitt can still plausibly argue he was using the term in a broader sense, given the context in which he used it. In another post at Overlawyered, however, Ted Frank has already found examples of replication being used in the economics literature to mean more than just verifying someone's results with the same data and same analysis. I'll add one more example to the list.
I should note that the Chronicle article also discusses the second count of the lawsuit, which is not tied to anything in Freakonomics, but to an e-mail Levitt sent to Professor John J. McCall. Thus far, most of the blogosphere's attention has been on the first count.