In their analysis of the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) “Did You Feel It?” (DYFI) data Hough and Martin (2021) claim, among other assertions, that the following:

  • Socioeconomic and geopolitical factors can introduce biases in the USGS’ characterization of earthquakes and their effects, especially if online data collection systems are not designed to be broadly accessible;

  • These biases can, in turn, potentially cascade in myriad ways, potentially shaping our understanding of an earthquake’s impact and the characterization of seismic hazard; and

  • Caution should be urged when relying on data from the DYFI system to characterize the distribution of shaking from large earthquakes in India and other parts of the world (outside of the United States).

Claims of inequity in access, systematic data biases, or urging caution in the usage of data from critical governmental earthquake information systems should not be made, nor taken, lightly. Several assertions made by Hough and Martin (hereafter, H&M) about the nature of DYFI contributors—and the data they provide—leave a false narrative concerning DYFI system accessibility and quality that H&M have not adequately substantiated.

I describe several shortcomings of H&M’s demographic statistics and methodology, focusing on four main concerns. First, DYFI has revolutionized and greatly facilitated access to reporting intensities, in contrast to H&M claims to the contrary. Second, because DYFI does not directly collect demographic data other than the observer’s location, any demographic analyses require extraordinary inferences, well outside the normal bounds of sociodemographic analyses. Third, independent of accessibility and the geographic distribution of contributions from the public, the macroseismic data collected are nonetheless representative of the shaking and impact at each location, of quality, rapid, and thus extremely useful. Lastly, H&M fail to cite critical and pertinent prior, highly relevant scholarly studies, and as such, they misrepresent the novelty of their own work as well as miss key practical matters detailed in those prior studies. Prior to rebutting what H&M claim DYFI does not do, I will remind the reader the ways in which DYFI excels.

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