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

2018 Conference programme

On 24 February, 2018 a full line-up of expert speakers will gather at the Radstats conference in London with the theme ‘21st Century Inequality in the UK‘.

As well as speakers there will be workshops and plenty of lively discussion.

Registration is only £50 (£30 student/low income) for the day including lunch.

Please spread the word  using this flyer to print and display.

The 2018 Annual General Meeting will immediately follow the conference, and there are social events over the weekend.

Newcomers and continuing members are very welcome to attend!

Issue 115 now online

We had a reasonably successful 2016 conference in York late February with about 60 participants. I think most people enjoyed it.

We have been waiting for the papers from the February Conference for several months and have at last received three; together with a follow-up to a previous article and some other bits and pieces, we now have a respectable ‘November 2016’ issue. All these papers were written and completed before the Brexit referendum unless otherwise specified.

The conference papers are by Jonathan Bradshaw on trends in Child Poverty; by Stewart Lansley on trends in inequality in income; and by Andrew Street on Financial Crisis in the NHS. We have an additional paper by Lisa Buckner on census-based local labour market research, and a response by John Hume to the criticism of his article in the previous issue on work capability assessment; together with updates by Jonathan Rosenhead on the academic boycott of Israel, on progress with the next RadStats book on Social Statistics by Jeff Evans and the provisional programme for the 2017 RadStats Conference on Saturday 18th February in Edinburgh.

Once again a very eclectic collection and no attempt is being made to link them, other than that they are all very interesting papers. View issue 115.

In this editorial, written only a couple of weeks after the second populist Trump ‘shock’ of the year, the previous question has to be re-emphasised: why have data and information had so little impact on political debates (and obviously that lack of impact is multiplied several times in terms of the impact of our information) and how that can be changed. Once again, the appeal to ‘take back control of our country’ was very powerful – and will be in France with Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands – but it is very disconcerting to believe that information has NO effect at all. What can we do – or what could be done by others – about it?.

Following on from the Brexit debate, much of the US Election debate was based on misleading economic and immigration information, yet attempts to deliver correct information had absolutely no impact. Why Not? Our problem is that ‘we’ have not understood the ways in which ‘information’ is adsorbed or understood by different socio-economic groups. Perhaps there should be real – rather than virtual – answers this time.
Finally, an urgent appeal for contributors / papers; we are seriously running out of material!

Roy Carr-Hill

Statistics of Brexit – 2017 Conference, Edinburgh

How have statistics been used in the arguments for Britain remaining in or leaving the EU? What do statistics of Brexit tell us about social inequalities and social change? What evidence is needed to assess the implications of Brexit proposals?

The upcoming Radical Statistics Conference 2017, on Saturday 18th February 2017 at the Quaker Meeting Housing in Central Edinburgh, will address these important questions by taking into consideration a range of perspectives (Demographic, Economic, Media, Law, Politics and Policy) and engaging in a timely and topical discussion about the “Statistics of Brexit”.

The format and structure of the event, with five keynote speakers, two workshops and a panel discussion, will provide plenty of opportunities for interaction and discussion on the role of statistics during the EU referendum campaign and beyond, indeed, only a few weeks before article 50 is triggered at the end of March, 2017. While it has been argued[1] that antipathy to statistics is one of the hallmarks of the populist right, with statisticians and economists chief among the various “experts” that were ostensibly rejected by voters in 2016, it is particularly incumbent on those who use statistics to support progressive social change and to give a much needed understanding of which data and conclusions are trustworthy in the so-called post-truth culture. As one of the most important decisions the British public has faced in decades, this event will provide a forum for discussion and debate on Brexit that promises to be evidenced-based and from a truly diverse set of perspectives.

View the programme, with link to booking form, for more information and to reserve your place now!

– by Albert Sabater


Welcome to York

We are all set, and looking forward to welcoming you in York!
Our weekend base is the Priory Street Centre (PSC, Priory Street, YO1 6ET). We will be there from 8.30 am Friday till 2pm or so on Sunday. You can leave luggage etc. there at your own risk.
Our main pub location will be the Brigantes pub (100m away from PSC, at 114 Micklegate, opposite the end of Priory Street). We have reserved their upper room from 5pm till closing time on both Friday and Saturday. However, we will not necessarily be there all the time, as food and drinks will also be available at the PSC (payment by donation: suggested minimum £6 for food; £1+ per drink; non-alcoholic drinks free).
Hot food (lasagne etc.) will arrive at PSC at 7pm each evening. I have ordered 20 portions. If you are arriving later on Friday and want one kept for you, please let me know.
I tried to arrange social events (group meal, Dave Rovics gig, pub quiz) but all of them were voted down or did not get support. But we hope to have music (maybe live, maybe dead) – so please bring CDs etc. (Is there anybody who wants to take charge of music? – Please let me know!)
At 10.30 on Sunday we shall set out for a 90-minute guided tour of York. This will reach places that other tours do not reach. The weather forecast is good! If you’d like to come on this, please pay an extra £2 when you check in and make sure your name is marked “Walk”. Equally, if you want to book a Saturday evening meal, please pay an extra £6 and mark your name “Meal”.
If you have not yet booked for the conference THERE IS STILL TIME! Please either book on the website or JUST TURN UP!!
Looking forward to seeing you.
JOHN BIBBY (Local Arrangements Commissar)

Special Issue 111 Editorial: Is Britain Pulling Apart?

This issue includes four articles based around the theme of the Radical Statistics conference in March 2014 all discussing topics related to the questions – Is Britain Pulling Apart? It concludes with two comment pieces, one a response to Gorad’s paper that appeared in Radstats 110 and one that focuses on the academic boycott of Israel.
We begin with a contribution by Daniel Silver. He discusses and criticises the use of ward-level statistics of poverty, and shows how these may be used to disguise issues related to poverty levels. His contribution draws on important evidence from a project by the Open Society Foundation, “Understanding Europe’s White Working Class Communities”, which carried out a comparative study across six European cities.

Nissa Finney then turns a critical eye to ethnic segregation. She begins by revealing that, contrary to much news commentary, there has been increased ethnic mixing, not segregation, over the last decade. Moreover, statements about ‘white flight’ from areas of ethnic diversity are not substantiated. Instead she identifies processes of demographic change (differential birth and death rates) and constraints on economic choice, including some ethnic groups’ reliance on the private rental market, as drivers of specific pockets of segregation.

Nigel de Noronha continues the focus on housing. He analyses social class polarisation in Britain with a particular emphasis on those living alone in the private rented sector. By analysing the patterns and trends in solo living in the private rented sector and how do they vary across different neighbourhoods he finds that there has been a polarisation in this area where those from higher classes often live in their own property, whilst younger people are more likely to live in private rented houses. Routine and unemployed classes on the other hand are more likely to live in social housing.

Roger Seifert’s article looks at the political and social background to calls for a ‘living wage’ as opposed to a ‘fair wage’. He highlights growing social inequality and the declining share of national wealth going to workers. Using a wealth of historic and contemporary data and analyses, he argues that contrary to previous political and economic action around ‘fair wages’, the idea of a living wage represents a serious challenge to the confines of market-based thinking. This is because ‘fairness’, erroneously presupposes that a market system based on structurally unequal power can be fair, while demands for a living wage necessitates political action and state intervention.

In a critical comment Larry Brownstein responds to Stephen Gorard’s suggested Trustworthiness scale outlined in the previous issue of Radical Statistics’ journal. He argues in favour for the use of such a scale, however, sees potential issues and errors in Gorard’s discussion, and in particular with the way in which Gorard approaches confidence intervals.

The final commentary is by Jonathan Rosenhead. He makes the case for statisticians, along with other academics, to participate in an academic boycott of Israeli institutions. Directly addressing arguments about exceptionalism and academic freedom, he highlights the institutional complicity of Israeli universities in systematic policies of ‘politicide’.
Our next issue of Radical Statistics will include prize-winners from the 2014 Radical Statistics Essay Competition. 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.

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

Radical Statistics 40th anniversary conference – 7 March, London

Radical Statistics

2015 Conference and AGM

Saturday 7 March, 2015

Conway hall, 25 REd Lion square, london WC1R 4RL

Coffee & registration 9:00 am. 9:15 start, 5:00 close. 5:15 AGM

Conference Theme: Good data, good policy? Taking place in the run-up to the May 2015 general Election, the conference will focus on public policy and its relationship with the availability of ‘good data’. We aim to address questions such as: How good is the data we have, and is it used well for policy-making? What are the possibilities for the production and democratic use of good statistics, and the threats to such developments?

View the full programme of talks and break-out sessions.

Further information here

Register via Eventbrite

Plus, thinking of coming along for the welcome reception?

Lucas Arms, 245A Grays Inn Rd, WC1X 8QY
Friday 6th March, 6:30-10:30 pm

A social, beginning with a review by economists Larry Brownstein & Julian Wells (7:15 – 8:30 pm) of the book Capital in the 21st Century (2013) by Thomas Piketty.

Suggestions for those who wish to read something beforehand:
1. the set of critiques published in Real World Economics, including  articles by Yanis Varoufakis (quite mathematical!) and by Ann Pettifor (et al.) who spoke at RadStats 2012:
http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue69/whole69.pdf

2. interview of Varoufakis by the head of the Henry George School:
http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2014/12/03/discussing-thomas-pikettys-inequality-