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

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

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

Free PDF of a New Book – “A Better Politics,” by Danny Dorling

“To make a real difference we need to shift common sense, change the terms of debate and shape a new political terrain.” – Doreen Massey (2015)


When people look back on their lives, they often wish they had done things differently.

They wish they had not had to amass such debts, especially in paying for education. They wish one particular relationship had not ended, or that they had been with someone else.

They wish they had become a parent. They wish they had said goodbye to their loved ones properly before they died. And they wish that they had not had to worry so much through so much of their life about so many issues that they later realized were quite trivial.

This book is based on a few ideas that began with the findings of one academic paper published a decade ago, using data from a decade before that.

Those findings are being extrapolated forwards, and I have thrown in many ideas that are buzzing around academia, in books and articles, and reported in newspapers, magazines and elsewhere on the Internet. In all cases I try to give the most accessible source – one that is not hidden behind a paywall – in the endnotes to the book.

Most ideas in the book are not polished ideas and will need rethinking before coming to fruition. Inevitably, some will turn out to be stupid. What is certain is that there is no shortage of ideas and choices.

But before we adopt any ideas, we can all benefit from stepping back and asking what matters most – and why we appear to have forgotten to do this more in the countries, like the UK and the US, that are the most unequal. Then, and only then, can we ask what we should do about it.

Danny Dorling, 22nd March, 2016 on giving Radstats a free digital copy of his book, A Better Politics: How Government Can Make Us Happier.

Radical Statistics Issue 113

Radical Statistics Issue 113 is now online. Below is the Editorial:

cover 113Following the publication of the two general competition winners in the last issue of Radical Statistics, this issue includes the two winners of the 2014 student essay competition. The winner, Clara Musto, embarks on a critical analysis of the ‘gateway hypothesis’, i.e. cannabis as a stepping stone drug. She does so by focusing on Uruguay, where cannabis was recently decriminalised. In her essay, Geraldine Clark, who came second place in the student competition, focuses on higher education and more specifically the expectations and aspirations of non-traditional students at a post-1992 University. The essay provides new knowledge about the role of habitus and capital in explaining these students’ expectations and aspirations and adds to our understanding of these in relation to the widening participation across social classes and socioeconomic backgrounds in the UK.

The theme of widening participation in UK universities is continued by Vikki Boliver. Vikki examines the recent Russell Group publication Opening Doors and shows that the claims made here about widening access in our most elite universities do not stand up to scrutiny. Rather these institutions remain unrepresentative and this has changed little over the last decade.

In his article John Veit-Wilson unpicks the claims of UK Chancellor, George Osborne, to be introducing a ‘living wage’. John highlights the differences between this fictitious ‘living wage’ and the living wage as calculated on the basis of a decency level. The article demonstrates problems relating to measurement ownership and difficulties that emerge when the naming of a measure becomes political.

Included in this issue is also a set of reports from the 2015 Radical Statistics Conference that was themed Good Data, Good Policy. These include a conference report from the organisers, two of the concluding reflections, by Ludi Simpson and Alison Macfarlane, which address the past and future of Radical Statistics, and a workshop report by Ludi Simpson and Nissa Finney in which they imagine what a community agenda around race statistics would look like.

Rachel Lara Cohen
Trude Sundberg
Eileen Magnello
Larry Brownstein
Email: editors@radstats.org.uk

Workshop on Future Radstats Publications

Come to York for the Radstats conference on Saturday, 27 February 2016

Statistics of crisis in UK and EU

and one day earlier for a workshop to discuss

Future Radical Statistics publications

Friday, 26 February 12:00 – 6:00 pm (in the same venue as the conference)
Please email RS2020@radstats.org.uk if you would like to come for the meeting.There will also be evening social events open to all in the same venue.


The Radical Statistics 2015 conference triggered several suggestions regarding future RadStats publications. A followup discussion took place in October. View the report of this meeting and the papers discussed.

The proposals have now been distilled down to just two. Click on links for detail.

  1. Radical Statistics in the 2020s (RS2020)
  2. Statistics for Radical Change (SRC): A Handbook for Community and Political Activists

Future developments will be posted on the Activity page of this website.

Posted on behalf of John Bibby, Jeff Evans, Humphrey Southall and Rachel Cohen.


Radical Statistics, Issue 110

This issue begins with two articles about the effect of demographic
change. Maria Sol Torres Minoldo turns a spotlight on Argentina,
while Alan Marshall, John Read, and James Nazroo focus on the
United Kingdom. Both pieces take issue with the argument, common
in the media and amongst politicians of all stripes, that an ageing
population is increasingly likely to constitute an unsustainable drain
on national resources. Specifically Minoldo produces considerable
data to show that the ‘dependency’ ratio (of ‘working adults’ to
‘pensioners’) is seriously flawed at assessing levels of real material
dependency in society. Marshall, Read and Nazroo decompose estimates of
population ageing. They show that, contrary to public discourse, older
age longevity accounts for only a small part of expected demographic
change, with the far larger part due to the ageing of the baby boom cohort.
As such population ageing may largely be a temporary, not permanent,

We follow this article with two reflections on the research process. In
the first Alan Sloan provides us with some qualitative reflections from
his work as a survey interviewer. He highlights the social context of
non-response and the emotional and practical ways that interviewers
respond. For many of us who work regularly with survey data this
reflection from the messy and human side of data collection serves as
a salutary reminder of the social uncertainty that data retain.

Following this, Stephen Gorard addresses the contentious issue of
how to assess the trustworthiness of evidence. His article produces a
framework to be used both by users and producers of research
evidence that enables a judgement-based star-rating of research
evidence. The framework emphasises design, sample size and quality,
data quality, fidelity of intervention, and threats to validity.

We finish the issue with four comment pieces addressing a diverse
range of contemporary issues – all of which in different ways highlight
the ways in which statistics and social policy are interwoven. The first
piece by Alison Macfarlane provides an overview of what has happened
with care.data, the proposed data linkage between GP and hospital
records. She shows that poor handling of the process and the huge
public resistance engendered has produced serious obstacles for
academic health research. Ludi Simpson then offers a cogent critique
of the ways in which segregation measures are used. He points out
that since there will always be some segregation these measures
provide ready grist for politicians seeking to ignite moral panics over
racial segregation.

Boycott Workfare provides us with an important discussion of the
impact of and use of statistics to support the workfare policies forming
part of the government’s social policies. The comment is a critique of
workfare, forming part of the government’s austerity politics, which
involves a toughening of the treatment of and sanctions put on welfare
claimants. The edition ends with a discussion of abortion and abortion
statistics in Ireland by Frank Houghton. His comment exposes the
ways in which the Irish government and public institutions shy away
from openness around the actual number of abortions taking place in
a country which has been criticised for its restrictive abortion

With this issue of Radical Statistics we welcome Trude Sundberg, a
Social Policy expert from the University of Kent to the editorial team
and say goodbye and thank you to Alistair Greig who has been part of
the team for the past two years.

If you have an article or short comment piece that you think would be
suitable for a future issue of Radical Statistics or ideas about a
themed set of articles please get in touch with us at editors @ radstats.org.uk.

Trude Sundberg
Rachel Lara Cohen
Larry Brownstein