How to use and report statistics better
We are helping those who train and educate journalists to instill respect and caution when it comes to stats. We’ve drafted Number Hygiene. It offers a dozen rules of thumb, aimed at helping journalists ask questions. Professional scepticism is recommended: whose number is it, do those pitching it have an interest…and so on.
In a submission to the Leveson inquiry, the Science Media Centre has put together a useful list of do’s and don’ts Science and Leveson , which newsrooms ought to use as a guide to good practice.
Our work meshes with a growing interest in the media on data handling and statistical literacy. Here is Guardian Reader’s Editor Chris Elliott doing auto-critique.
Is there truth and beauty in data?
Avoid being spun by the stats: the House of Commons Library offers How to spot error
Here’s a useful guide to the do’s and don’ts of writing about opinion polls – and what to tell your editor when she’s tempted to publish a ‘voodoo’ based on the most biased of samples
How to make data meaningful: toolkits and guides from the United Nations - MDM_Part1_English
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation offers advice on how to report poverty reporting-poverty-journalist-guide-full
Workshops for journalists
The RSS’s workshops for journalists help them explain the basic statistical issues in a way that the general public can easily understand.
Coordinating science training
Statistics lies at the heart of science – working with the Science Media Centre, and funded by a government grant, the RSS is hosting the national coordinator for science journalism training.
The RSS’s awards for statistical excellence in journalism spotlight the best in using and reporting statistics.
Others (for example the Open Knowledge Foundation) are keen to promote high standards, for example in how journalists present data: for example, the European Journalism Centre is mounting a new set of awards
Recognising abuse and misuse
Unfortunately misuse of statistics is all to frequent. There are monitors, the UKStatistics Authority among them. Monitoring Disorder is the authority’s take on the allegation by the Daily Mail that the police and public authorities deliberately suppressed data on the disorder last August: it is a cool and careful step-by-step deconstruction of a mendacious use (or rather non use) of statistics.