Editorial, Issue 121

This issue is now available online.

I/we had hoped – yet again – that this issue would include some of the conference papers but it was not to be.  However, my rather hopeless intervention at the beginning of the London Conference, which most –including myself – thought unlikely to be successful has, in fact generated several papers from new authors that not only filled the previous issue but provided a surplus for this issue (although none for the next!).

Contents of this Issue

The result of course is that the contents of this issue are again a mixed bag, so they have been put in the reverse order of author’s surnames (to distinguish from the previous issue).  Westart, with a critique of statistics as reification from Simeon Scott, including diatribes on Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics, Bolshevism and Statistics, IBM and the Nazis, Identity Politics, the Neutrality of Numbers, the Mean value as Reification, Big Data, the Data Scientist, Econometrics concluding with the Tyranny of Numbers. It is followed by anovel approach by Daniel and Burns to map real pedestrian catchment areas by factoring in elevation to the street networks to understand daily journey-to-work commuting behaviour, taking Milton in Galasgow as an example. As expected, the ‘real’ ‘ped-shed’ is smaller than the 2D ‘ped-shed’for both current and proposed networks. This research builds on existing established practice in walkability analysis, and prompts a discussion on other factors which may affect walkability and could be included in a more sophisticated walkability index.

After that there are two short articles.  Houghton contributes an expose of corruption and mismanagement in Irish Credit Unions, set up to be an ethically ‘cleaner’ than the disgraced banking sector, in their operation of prize draws (Misappropriation of funds; Mismanagement of prize draws funds; Poor systems and controls; Lack of independence where officers of the credit union have been prize-winners).  The last article is a final contribution by Roy Carr-Hill on meta analyses, examining the specifically statistical issues.  The issue is completed by a comprehensive report on the 2018 Conference in London.

Prospects for RSN 122
We now have no material for the next issue RSN 122, due late January. We would like it to be at least partly devoted to the 2018 conference
papers, and the Editor has written to each of the speakers
asking if they can produce a paper but we think it would also be very
useful if any of those who attended (or did not attend) have any ideas
or thoughts on the subjects raised could make a contribution, however
short. I/we have written to all of the authors individually and circulated
all members asking them to submit anything they want to write
on one or more of the themes addressed in the conference.

The themes addressed at the conference were the issue of inequality
as it relates to income, reproductive health and intimate partner violence,
while the fourth explored the feasibility of low-carbon towns.
The day included workshops specifically related to these themes, and
one on the role of the statistician in the age of alternative facts; and
reports of these workshops are included in the report at the end of this
issue..

Please send anything directly to Roy Carr-Hill roy.carr_hill@yahoo.com
with Subject Title: Contribution on 2018 London RadStats Conference:
theme Income Inequality OR Reproductive Inequalities OR Inequality
and Intimate Partner Violence OR Feasibility of Low-Carbon
towns OR Role of statistician in the age of alternative ‘facts’.
Roy Carr-Hill

Data in Society: Challenging statistics in an age of globalisation

  • Data in Society: Challenging statistics in an age of globalisation, Editors Jeff Evans, Sally Ruane, and Humphrey Southall; Policy Press, 2019. It is 20 years since the publication of the last Radical Statistics collection, Statistics in Society (1999), and even longer since Demystifying Social Statistics (1979). This third collection of chapters produced under the auspices of Radical Statistics has been handed over to be published by Policy Press in August 2019.The use of both ‘statistics’ and ‘data’ in the title is to capture the tension between two views of the materials, the methods and the professional and disciplinary basis of our work: the statistical data, statistical analysis,and the statistics and allied professions / disciplines, on the one hand; and ‘data’ (sometimes ‘big’), data analytics, and data scientists, on the other. The aims of the book include: to explore ongoing developments in the uses of data and the role of statistics in contemporary society, including the increasing diversity of data producers beyond the state, to include private corporations, especially those based on social media and new technologies; to raise levels of critical understanding in terms of the role and significance of statistical data and statistical claims to invite a wider public of non-specialist readers, including third sector, professional and service user groups, to consider how statistics are used in social discourse and debate, to advance interests and to achieve particular, often political, ends. The audience for the book will include: Teachers, researchers and students in applied statistics, and in research methods for a range of social science, economics, geography, health and business areas, at intermediate or final yearundergraduate level, or postgraduate level; Those training in areas such as social work, youth and community work, teaching and nursing;  Practitioners in the above fields, plus community activists and other campaigners using statistics as a campaigning tool and wanting to critically understand their use by others; and, of course, Members and allies of the Radical Statistics Group.
  • Most higher education and training courses for the groups above includean introduction to the use of statistics. The introduction of Q Step programmes to enhance the level of teaching of quantitative methods to social science undergraduates in UK Universities has led to an increased emphasis on quantitative material across the whole range of social sciences and related fields, in undergraduate and taught post-graduate programmes. A number of the chapters here include clear signposts to the date used in their analyses.Throughout its gestation, the book has benefitted from the support of Radical Statistics and its members. Early planning meetings and travel to face-to-face Editors’ meetings were supported by the Radical Statistics Troika. Throughout, appeals to members, allies, and the mailing list have elicited valuable help, including reviewing of chapters. We thank everyone who has supported the book’s development, and look forward to your participation in the arguments that we hope will be stimulated by the book.
  • The contents of the book are as follows. Foreword by Danny Dorling Preface by the Editors Introduction by Humphrey Southall, Jeff Evans and Sally Ruane Section 1: How Data are Changing Section Introduction: Humphrey Southall and Jeff Evans Statistical work: the changing occupational landscape by Kevin McConway Administrative data: The creation of Big Data by Harvey Goldstein and Ruth Gilbert What’s new about Data Analytics? by Ifan Shepherd and Gary Hearne Social media data by Adrian Tear and Humphrey Southall Section 2: Counting in a Globalised WorldSection Introduction: Sally Ruane and Jeff Evanso Adult Skills Surveys and Transnational Organisations: Globalising Educational Policy by Jeff Evans
  • Interpreting survey data: Towards valid estimates of poverty in the South by Roy Carr-Hill Counting the Population in Need of International Protection Globally by Brad Blitz, Alessio D’Angelo and Eleonore Kofman Tax justice and the challenges of measuring illicit financial flows by Richard Murphy Section 3: Statistics and the Changing Role of the State Section Introduction: Sally Ruane and Humphrey Southall The control and ‘fitness for purpose’ of UK Official Statistics by David Rhind The statistics of devolution by David Byrne The uneven impact of welfare reform by Tina Beatty and Steve Fothergill ‘From ‘Welfare’ to ‘Workfare’ – and Back Again? Social Insecurity and the Changing Role of the State’ by Christopher Deeming and Ron Johnston Access to data and NHS privatisation: reducing public accountability by Sally Ruane Section 4: Economic Life Section Introduction: Humphrey Southall and Jeff Evans The ‘distribution question’: Measuring and evaluating trends in inequality by Stewart Lansley  Changes in working life by Paul Bivand  The Financial System by Rebecca Boden  The difficulty of building comprehensive tax avoidance data by Prem Sikka Tax and spend decisions: did austerity improve financial numeracy and literacy? by David Walker Section 5: Inequalities in Health and Well-beingSection Editors: Sally Ruane and Humphrey Southall  Health divides by Anonymous Measuring social well-being by Roy Carr-Hill Re-engineering health policy research to measure equity impacts by Tim Doran and Richard Cookson The Generation Game: Ending the phoney information war between young and old by Jay Ginn and Neil Duncan-Jordan Section 6 : Advancing social progress through critical statistical literacy Section Editors: Jeff Evans, Sally Ruane, and Humphrey Southall The Radical Statistics Group: Using Statistics for Progressive Social Change by Jeff Evans and Ludi Simpson Lyme disease politics and evidence-based policy-making in the UK by Kate Bloor Counting the uncounted: contestations over casualisation data in Australian universities by Nour Dados, James Goodman and Keiko Yasukawa The Quantitative Crisis in UK Sociology by Malcolm Williams, Luke Sloan and Charlotte Brookfield Critical Statistical Literacy and Interactive Data Visualisations by Jim Ridgway, James Nicholson, Sinclair Sutherland and Spencer Hedger Full fact by Amy Sippitt  What a difference a dataset makes? Data journalism and/as data activism by Jonathan Gray and Liliana Bounegru Epilogue by Jeff Evans, Humphrey Southall and Sally Ruane

Issue 120 now online

I/we had hoped that this issue would include some of the conference papers but it was not to be.  However, my rather hopeless intervention at the beginning of the London Conference, which most – including myself – thought unlikely to be successful has, in fact generated several papers from new authors so that there is not only this issue but a surplus for the next issue.

Contents of this Issue

 The result of course is that the contents of this issue are a mixed bag, so they have been put in the order of author’s surnames. We start, appropriately with a homage to Arthur Bowley, one of the pioneers of statistics and especially a precursor of Tukey’s approach to analysis and presentation.  Written and illustrated, lovingly, by John Bibby, who found it buried in a mess of papers somewhere.  It is followed by a novel approach by Riekkinen and Burns to understand daily journey-to-work commuting behaviour in London and link this to environmentaland health impact, and to devise a replicable framework through which areas can be rated based on low carbon and active travel with this information then being used to support policy implementation for more sustainable commuting.

The next two articles are clear critiques of the current use of statistics.  The first is by Frank Houghton expanding on the revelations concerning the extensive falsification of breathalyser testing statistics by the Irish Police (O’Sullivan, 2017), which have recently escalated into a damning expose of a series of more incriminating practices. What started out as an investigation into inflated activity figures by some Irish Police officers (Garda) has subsequently revealed financial misconduct, wholesale errors and incompetence, and extensive data falsification and a nefarious cover-up at the highest levels. The second is by Brendan Lawson on the coverage of the 2017 South Sudanese Famine by The Guardian and BBC News.  There were three interlinked findings: one, the United Nations was the source for the vast majority of statistics; two, these statistics were unilaterally accepted as indisputable truths by the news media; three, they underpinned and constructed a narrative of constitution-measurement-solution. This framed journalists’ use of statistics as serving to reinforce existing power dynamicsof the humanitarian field.

Prospects for RSN 121

Whilst we do have some material forthe next issue RSN 121, due in October 2018, we would like it to be at least partly devoted to that conference.  The Editor has written to each of the speakers asking if they can produce a paper but we think it would also be very useful if any of those who attended (or did not attend) have any ideas or thoughts on the subjects raised could make a contribution, however short. I/we have written to all of the authors individually and circulated all members asking them to submit anything they want to write on one or more of the themes addressed in the conference. 

The themes addressed at the conference were the issue of inequality as it relates to income, reproductive health and intimate partner violence, while the fourth explored the feasibility of low-carbon towns. The day included workshops specifically related to these themes, and one on the role of the statistician in the age of alternative facts.

Please send anything directly to Roy Carr-Hill roy.carr_hill@yahoo.com with Subject Title: Contribution on 2018 London RadStats Conference: theme Income Inequality OR ReproductiveInequalities OR Inequality and Intimate Partner Violence OR Feasibility of Low-Carbon towns OR Role of statistician in the age of alternative ‘facts’.

Roy Carr-Hill

Editorial – Radical Statistics Issue 118 (2017)

Issue 118 is now online, available as open access. Below is the editorial.

This is the second post-2017 Edinburgh Conference Issue. Anyway,
I/we think that most of the 60+ participants enjoyed and profited from
the Conference.

We have been waiting for the papers from that February Conference
for four months and have only received two; so we have decided to
publish an issue with those two and including our backlog of
submitted papers, and make the next issue the 2017 Conference
papers.

The first Conference paper is by Professor Cathcart on the low level of
trust in journalists in the UK, reviewing a wide range of disparate and
fragmentary survey evidence over several years finding no particular
trend; and comparing with levels of trust in journalists in other
European countries. The levels of trust do not appear to respond to
any specific political event; the most likely explanation is that the
public do not trust journalists because they have seen them not telling
the truth.

The second Conference paper is by Michael Dougan reviewing the
‘research’ that was meant to back up the claims of the Leave alliance
in its deceitful campaign about the Brexit referendum. He focuses on
the mysterious ‘statistical’ so-called arguments they put forward; and
shows that there was no basis to any of their evidence.

Then there is another poem by Larry Lesser – this time on a ‘Test for
Normality’ – whilst we have retained his original poem from the last
issue on the cover page. He has also provided a rare political
statistical joke.

We end with the second paper by John Read on the historical analysis
of UK population data focussing on trends in mortality rates. He
carries out a thorough analysis and suggests that the evidence shows
that the population pyramid is stabilising.

Once again, I have to make an appeal for papers – we are down to only
one, apart from outstanding Edinburgh Conference papers – or are we
simply running into a technology trap?

Roy Carr-Hill
Radical Statistics Editor

Editorial – Radical Statistics Issue 117 (2017)

Issue 117 is now online, available as open access. Below is the editorial.

This is the first post-2017 Edinburgh Conference Issue. I/we have to
apologise for the tardiness in appearance; been more than a bit
submerged by other tasks. Anyway, I/we think that most of the 60+
participants enjoyed and profited from the Conference.

We have been waiting for the papers from that February Conference
for four months and have only received two; so we have decided to
publish an issue with our backlog of submitted papers, and make the
next issue the 2017 Conference papers.

These are a very mixed bag. The first is a paper, which will be seen as
controversial, by Ian Plewis on Glyphosate and Green Politics reviews
the evidence for and against ‘Round-up’ (and glyphosate more
generally) with a special focus on the confusion of hazard with risk
and the dodgy sampling and statistical methods employed. It is most
certainly worth reading carefully before jumping to any hasty
judgements; if nothing else he shows that (most of) the ‘Green’
evidence is hyped and suspect.

This is followed by a forensic examination of Welsh School Inspection
Reports by Robert Moore showing how ……

Then there is a fascinating two-pager by Larry Lesser – our first but I
hope not only statistical poet – on the ‘recent’ history of the portrayal
of the normal distribution, which is our new cover page.

On the other side of the normality sandwich, we have an article on the
appalling state of Irish breathalyser statistics by Frank Houghton
which ‘links’ – totally fortuitously – with the article by Roy Carr-Hill in
the previous issue.

The last article is by Dougal Hutchison analysing and reviewing the
success – or otherwise – of the Indian government in providing equal
educational opportunities to primary school children, focussing on the
bottom quintile and on Scheduled Tribes. He concludes that whilst
impressive gains have been made, there are still wide disparities
between these two disadvantaged groups and the rest.
Obviously a very eclectic collection and I am not going to make any
attempt to link them, other than that they are all very interesting
papers.

The issue is back to its usual length because there are two additional
pieces. One is a very critical review by Neil Wilson of a book on Basic
Income by Van Parijs and Vanderborght.

The other is the text – finally agreed on among ‘members; of the
Working Group set up at the 2016 RadStats meeting in York – of a
proposal for the issue raised by Palestinians to support Boycott,
Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israeli University institutions
(not individuals). We’ll know whether they have responded positively
before you get this issue.

Roy Carr-Hill
Radical Statistics Editor

Radical Statistics, Issue 114 online

Issue 114 of our journal is now online for your reading pleasure.

Articles “include a paper by the Acton family and friends on understanding or at least interpreting the demography of the Roma and other gypsy ethnic groups; two papers on thumb114problems with assessment processes, one on work capability assessment by John Hume and one on the predictive assessment of young children; a paper on the demography of the elderly population in 2014; and a paper on scientific collaboration in knowledge networks by Thng. Obviously a very eclectic collection and I am not going to make any attempt to link them, other than that they are all very interesting papers.”

– Roy Carr Hill, Editor