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Beware flawed statistics

Mar 28, 2011 Beware flawed statistics

Ours is an age of 24/7 information overload, McTwitter-speak, short attention spans, and technology-related multitasking attention deficit disorder. Under such circumstances, the risks are all the higher that flawed statistical studies will be rampant, methods of analysis and interpretation will be flawed, and that the raw data used for statistical studies and other research will be unreliable, as well.

Laws, voting decisions, criminal justice decisions — and the list goes on — repeatedly rely on statistical studies and other research studies. In their perceived lack of time, news media outlets, those in government, and most everyone else too often fail to question the source and reliability of statistical studies and scientific studies upon which they make the most material of decisions.

Thanks to Nick Pinto at Denver Westword for highlighting this huge problem, by focusing on how legions of lawmakers, news media outlets, and others let themselves be duped — and duped others in the process — by accepting hook-line-and-sinker a deeply flawed study on allegedly explosive increases in juvenile prostitution.

Of course, I do not have sufficient information to elevate Nick Pinto as the deity of accuracy himself, or not. Regardless, in preparing his article, Pinto compared notes with other research and journalistic professionals, rather than relying on his own hunches and conclusions, and his article points out the obvious that people need to be reminded of: Question, question, and question, always, always and always. Always.

ADDENDUM: Thank to a listserv member for bringing Nick Pinto’s foregoing article to my attention.

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