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 Science, Math, and Philosophy Discussions regarding science, math, and/or philosophy.

08-14-2012, 04:21 PM   #16
Pooh-Bah

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Re: A particular representation of data

Quote:
 Originally Posted by zoltan Lots of rage in this thread for a policy paper. I suggest the context and audience is very different from what we (as researchers) are accustomed to. Policy folks don't think about the nuances of rounding numbers; they want to know what the author recommends based on acknowledged and agreed-to data.
Why are there numbers at all then? If they want to be spoonfed "Do X. It gud." then numbers aren't necessary. If they want to make their own decisions based on numbers, then spin isn't necessary. This seems like some kind of "truthiness", where in reality they just want to be told what to do, but they also want garbage to regurgitate to give the appearance of having given it careful consideration even though they haven't.

08-14-2012, 04:49 PM   #17
Carpal \'Tunnel

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Re: A particular representation of data

Quote:
 Originally Posted by 2p2jim This thread is the first time I've heard the idea that decimals are possibly too technical for a non-technical audience.
http://consumerist.com/2010/02/veriz...and-00002.html

(Yes, it's old. But still...)

 08-14-2012, 05:07 PM #18 journeyman   Join Date: Sep 2011 Posts: 213 Re: A particular representation of data personally i think "nearly 2" and "1.6" are both misleading. the actual data is a range (and some sort of confidence interval is involved). nearly 2 makes the number seem bigger, but does imply it's only an estimate. 1.6 gives the impression that the number is more exact than it is. some audiences want things simplified. any way an author does the simplification, they're going to misrepresent
08-14-2012, 06:17 PM   #19
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Re: A particular representation of data

Quote:
 Originally Posted by TomCowley Why are there numbers at all then? If they want to be spoonfed "Do X. It gud." then numbers aren't necessary. If they want to make their own decisions based on numbers, then spin isn't necessary. This seems like some kind of "truthiness", where in reality they just want to be told what to do, but they also want garbage to regurgitate to give the appearance of having given it careful consideration even though they haven't.
Because some publications are designed to go to a wide array of stakeholders. Executives want bullet points, but the hard numbers have to be in there somewhere to justify the interpretation and recommendations. Plus, research by large committees is generally of the just-put-everything-in-there sort. So it's not unlikely that one or more (if there are >10) authors didn't even read the entire document.

My statement hinges on the assumption it's the sort of technical report that the UN or NAS publishes, and not a primary research or review article from an academic journal.

Last edited by zoltan; 08-14-2012 at 06:19 PM. Reason: clarification

08-14-2012, 06:38 PM   #20
Pooh-Bah

Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 4,327
Re: A particular representation of data

Quote:
 Originally Posted by zoltan Because some publications are designed to go to a wide array of stakeholders. Executives want bullet points, but the hard numbers have to be in there somewhere to justify the interpretation and recommendations.
So why isn't spin the complete opposite of what you want in such a document? Unless you just want "a justification" and don't care about "a true justification", which was my point.

 08-14-2012, 06:43 PM #21 Carpal \'Tunnel     Join Date: Jul 2007 Location: Off my lawn you little punk! Posts: 8,126 Re: A particular representation of data One man's spin is another man's policy advocacy?
08-14-2012, 07:36 PM   #22
Pooh-Bah

Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 4,327
Re: A particular representation of data

Quote:
 Originally Posted by zoltan One man's spin is another man's policy advocacy?
But policy decisions are made (well, by people who aren't incompetent, which is probably a minority) by the outcome or range of outcomes and the decision maker's value judgment about those outcomes. Trying to influence his value judgments is fine. Trying to influence his perception of the what the outcome(s) are is just lying.

I mean if you're ok with me categorizing such things as attempts to dishonestly manipulate the incompetent, and you're ok with it because that's what everybody does with everything, and it's impossible for anything else to work as long as most decision makers are either incompetent or unwilling to fact-check the necessary figures themselves, then there's not much disagreement.

08-14-2012, 08:52 PM   #23
old hand

Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: UK
Posts: 1,964
Re: A particular representation of data

I think that the summary paragraph is perfectly good for a lay audience and that no misrepresentation has occurred or was intended.

I have one issue with the original paragraph, however...

Quote:
 At 1.6 (0.8–2.4) million deaths and 2.6% of the global burden of disease (as measured in lost life-years), IAQ ranks second only to poor water/sanitation/hygiene among environmental health risk factors.
This seems to me to (potentially) 'bigging up' the importance of IAQ - there's no indication of by how much it is in second place. Might be a couple of percent, might be an order of magnitude.

08-14-2012, 09:52 PM   #24
Carpal \'Tunnel

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Re: A particular representation of data

Quote:
 Originally Posted by Gin 'n Tonic I have one issue with the original paragraph, however... This seems to me to (potentially) 'bigging up' the importance of IAQ - there's no indication of by how much it is in second place. Might be a couple of percent, might be an order of magnitude.
The original quote came from a substantial document that had much more information than what I presented here.

Here's the original article:

http://www.fire.uni-freiburg.de/vfe/...eview-2007.pdf

This quote was taken from page 25. (And I think you can trace the data back to some other WHO study if you follow the references.)

I'll also note that the original article is a scientific one and the second (the one that I'm questioning) is not, but it is written by someone who speaks as an authority of science.

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