Editorial, Issue 128

View the online journal, issue 128.Cover of issue 128, collage of crowds

Contents of this Issue
Following on from the discussions at the London Conference in February 2020, I asked contributors if they would agree to a student converting their power-point presentations into short texts. This has been partly successful this year. We did at last manage to get two of the presentations at the 2020 Conference – those of Danny Dorling and Andy Street – converted to text and these are the first two articles in this issue. The third article is the paper presented by Lynn McDonald at the Conference. The final article is a follow-up by Simeon Scott to an earlier article in Issue 125.

Prospects for RSN 129
We have at least one article promised for RSN 129, but, clearly, we are going to have to rely on contributions from the 2021 Conference. Given that this 2021 Conference hosted by Newcastle will be virtual, it is vital that presenters provide their powerpoints to the organisers and to the editors and that, if they can’t themselves provide a write-up of their presentation, they agree that a student should try and convert their presentation into a write-up, for the author to clear for publication.

Another proposal for generating material was the relatively recent publication of the third RadStats compendium, Data in Society, which was presented by the books’ editors on Saturday 28th 2020. It is a landmark publication, bringing together many of the crucial issues around the production and use of quantitative information.

The contributors to Data in Society summarise many of the concerns around the accessibility and use of statistics in contemporary society. Examples include the lack of data from banking and financial organisations hides the extent of tax evasion of taxation. Government agencies are reducing the number of data series they make available for public scrutiny. The number of healthcare treatments in Britain provided by private groups is growing steadily.

The book is an eye-opener on the difficulties in holding governments and large organisations to account. Do you agree with the authors’ interpretations?

As the editors acknowledge there are data topics the volume does not cover in detail. These include the use of statistics by legal practitioners, housing and homelessness data and climate change data.

The editors of the RadStats journal have been planning to devote one journal issue to topics raised by Data in Society, and to topics not discussed in the book. Could you write an article for the journal on any of the topics above? Are there are areas of debate missing from Data in Society?

Administrative Issues

As the Administrator informed those receiving printed copies of the issue that, at the AGM held in London at the end of February 2020, the decision was taken to raise the subscription from £25 to £35 for those wishing to continue to receive printed copies (whilst the membership subscription only – with online access – would remain at £25 for those £10 for those on low incomes), otherwise they would be taken off the distribution list which originally includes all 300+ members.

Also, although the2021 Conference will be virtual, there are still preparation and ongoing costs. We are asking for a donation; the suggested amount is £20, however all smaller donations will help cover the costs.

Please make sure you have updated your subscription, or make a donation! – by going to www.radstats.org.uk/membership where you can pay by cheque, standing order, PayPal – or by filling in your details on page 52.

Using Statistics to Understand the Pandemic – and What Will Come Next

Radical Statistics 2021 Conference and AGM and more
Saturday, 27 February 9:30am-4:00pm
Via Zoom

Registration for the conference is FREE.
(But please consider a donation toward organising costs. See below.)

Presentations

Jennifer Badham on Real Time Modelling of COVID in Conjunction with Public Health at Local Levels
Ted Schrecker on Health Inequality in a Post-pandemic World: The Real Grand Challenges
Pouria Hadjibagheri (PHE) on COVID-19 dashboard – Building an Open and Transparent Data Platform
Sally Ruane on What Statistics Tell Us About the State of the NHS When COVID Hit AND How It Got to that State
Mike Sandys (Director of Public Health for Leicestershire CC) on How a Director of Public Health Has Engaged with Data During COVID and What Issues Have Been Experienced
Andrei Morgan on The Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Perinatal Activity

There will be ample time for Q&A and discussion.

2021 Annual General Meeting
Saturday, 27 February 4:00 – 5:00 PM
All members and interested participants are welcomed warmly.

Join in for an informal social drinks event
Friday, 26 February at 7:00 PM
Meet old and new members to discuss the conference themes & more.
And -– if you’re not completely comfortable joining Zoom events, this is a relaxed place to practice. Help will be available if needed.

Please donate to help cover organising costs:

Suggested donation amount:
£20+ Supporter     £10 Low-income     Free for students
Radstats runs on a miniscule budget and even small amounts make a great difference.

 

2020 Conference and Events

2020, London: “Learning from the Past to Build a Better Future
Friday 28th & Saturday 29th February, 2020
Radical Statistics 46th annual conference will take place at
St Luke’s Community Centre, 90 Central St, London EC1V 8AJ.
Register on Eventbrite.
On Saturday, 29th at the same location Radical Statistics will hold its AGM, discussion about Data in Society, and an extended discussion on the future of Radstats, as we approach our 50th year. All welcome.

Register now – Radical Statistics 2020 Conference

“Learning from the Past to Build a Better Future”

London: Friday 28th February 2020, with associated events on 27th and 28th February evenings, and the morning of 29th February.

The 46th annual Radical Statistics Conference will take place at St Luke’s Community Centre, 90 Central St, London EC1V 8AJ.

2020 marks the bicentenary of the birth of Florence Nightingale who was noted as “The Passionate Statistician”. We are proud to mark this with a Keynote Address from Lynn McDonald of Guelph University, world authority on Nightingale and editor of her collected works. Lynne’s talk is entitled “Florence Nightingale and Statistics: What She Did and What She Did Not”.

There will be many other talks and plenty of time for discussion, including:

Danny Dorling on The UK health crisis
Eileen Magnello on Nightingale: A radical and passionate statistician
Andrew Street on Revisiting Nightingale’s vision and hospital outcomes

Dave Byrne on The IFS Deaton review
Paul Marchant on Bad Stats and the public purse
Greg Dropkin on Radiation & A-bomb survivers in Japan

And discussion and sessions on the new Radical Statistics book ‘Data in Society: Challenging Statistics in an Age of Globalisation’

On the following morning, Saturday the 29th, Radical Statistics’ AGM will be held at the same location. In addition all are invited to discuss the future of Radical Statistics as an organisation as we prepare to enter our second half-century. There will be informal social events on the evenings of the 27th and 28th. We hope to end with a guided walk on a FN theme by a professional guide, immediately following the Saturday meeting.

Registration is now open.

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