Trust in Numbers: a Pillar of Good Statistical Practice

In his recent talk to the South West Royal Statistical Society local group, Professor David Spiegelhalter reiterated the message from his presidential address about the important role that statisticians have to play to ensure that numerical and scientific evidence can be trusted.

In the newly termed “post-truth” society in which we live, numbers and scientific evidence can often be (mis-)used to provide a certificate of credibility. Professor Spiegelhalter pointed out that the intentional falsification of numbers and scientific evidence is thankfully rare, and often the mis-use of statistics has more to do with attempts to make a story more appealing by using “high impact visual data representation”, simplifying the presentation of the results by removing any mention of uncertainty, or omitting any discussion of the limitations of the data, experiment or analyses.

While clarity and insight are key for the presentation of statistical results, this should not be at the expense of quality and transparency, if we as statisticians are to build the general public’s confidence in numbers.  To help with this, the UK Statistics Authority has released a new Code Of Practice, centred around three pillars: Trustworthiness, Quality and Value. Whilst organisations producing official statistics are required to adhere by this code, any organisations producing data and statistics in general are encouraged to consider committing to the three pillars.

Here at Select, our consultants, as Chartered Statisticians and professional members of the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), and also bide by the RSS Code of Conduct which is designed to ensure that professional statisticians provide the highest level of statistical service and advice. We do not compromise on Trustworthiness, Quality or Value to make a finding more insightful or to create a better story.