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Show Me Some Stats

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Introduction

Candice: Hello Joy, you look like you have spare time on your hands. Joy: I don't really but- Candice: No worries, I have for you a challenge. Joy: Go on. Candice: I have here five pairs of countries. In each pairing one country has twice the child mortality rate as the other. (Turn to audience) Mortality rate is the ratio of deaths in an area to the population of that area. Since it is a two-times difference, it is a much bigger difference than the uncertainty of the data. My question is simple: which country has the higher child mortality rate of the five pairs? Sri Lanka or Turkey Poland or South Korea Malaysia or Russia Pakistan or Vietnam Thailand or South-Africa Joy: But that is trivial! Let me see, well, it's obviously this one, and this one, and this one, I'll take a guess on this one, but I'm pretty sure it's this one for the last one. Here. Candice: That sure was brief, let me see if your answers look anything like this. Sri Lanka or Turkey� �Poland or South Korea Malaysia or Russia� �Pakistan or Vietnam Thailand or South-Africa� Candice: Wrong, wrong, wrong again, that one's right, and another wrong answer? What is this, multiple choice on the Chemistry HL test? And you are in IB? ...read more.

Middle

Candice: There are no commonly accepted definitions for data quality for official statistics. Statistics Canada has defined data quality in terms of "fitness for use". Six dimensions of quality have been identified within the concept of "fitness for use". The relevance of statistical information reflects the degree to which it meets the real needs of users. The accuracy of statistical information is the degree to which the information correctly describes the phenomena it was designed to measure. The timeliness of statistical information refers to the delay between the reference point (or the end of the reference period) to which the information pertains, and the date on which the information becomes available. The accessibility of statistical information refers to the ease with which it can be obtained by users. The interpretability of statistical information reflects the availability of the supplementary information necessary to interpret and use it appropriately. The coherence of statistical information reflects the degree to which it can be successfully brought together with other statistical information within a broad analytic framework and over time. Joy: Now that we have defined what good statistics are, we would like to address some misconceptions people have about statistics. Candice: Some people believe that statistics are just averages. I personally do not trust averages. Why? Because averages are like a person having his head in the fridge and his feet in the oven and saying that he feels comfortably warm. ...read more.

Conclusion

Joy: You know,just like how this cultural and era-specificity influences statistics, there is a general perception that statistical knowledge is all-too-frequently intentionally misused by finding ways to interpret only the data that are favorable to the presenter. A famous saying attributed to Benjamin Disraeli is, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Candice: Harvard President Lawrence Lowell wrote in 1909 that statistics, "...like veal pies, are good if you know the person that made them, and are sure of the ingredients." Joy: If various studies appear to contradict one another, then the public may come to distrust such studies. For example, one study may suggest that a given diet or activity raises blood pressure, while another may suggest that it lowers blood pressure. The discrepancy can arise from subtle variations in experimental design, such as differences in the patient groups or research protocols, which are not easily understood by the non-expert. Candice: Media reports usually omit this vital contextual information entirely, because of its complexity. By choosing, rejecting, or modifying a certain sample, results can be manipulated, and reality is therefore distorted. Such manipulations need not be malicious or devious; they can arise from unintentional biases of the researcher. Joy: The graphs used to summarize data can also be misleading. Candice: Statisticians can be malicious like that. Joy: But we're not manipulative at all, lets go agonize more IB students by telling them they know less about the world than chimps. Candice: Agreed. ...read more.

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