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The official blog of @SCHEVResearch at the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. Discussions about our work, national higher education data policy, and highlights about the data we publish.


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The book "EVERYDATA"

by Tod Massa 2. December 2016 21:09

Based on the recommendation of a former college president, I picked up a copy of the book, "EVERYDATA The misinformation hidden in the little data you consume every day," By John H. Johnson and Mike Gluck. This book is oriented to making the average person a better consumer of the data seen each day. It is a very easy read with dozens of examples how data are presented in advertising, the popular press, and elsewhere.

After going through some definitions and a very basic introduction to the fundamentals, the authors systematically describe a multitude of ways that key aspects of popular numbers and statistics are left out, how numbers can be biased, and what questions a consumer should ask. For example, the section on "How to be a Good Consumer of Data by Knowing If What You're Seeing Matters," they cover these five points:

1) Start by asking if a result could be due to random chance.

2) Understand that many findings are actually based probability.

3) Know that the data you see in headlines is often part of a range.

4) Even if the effect is statistically significant, look at the size of effect.

5) Consider the impact of the data has on your life.

I think these considerations are relevant to our work. Providing enough information to support meaningful interpretation of the data we publish is critical. We often engage in frequent battles to ensure enough information is presented. There is a trend towards simpler and fewer measures of everything. Trying to find a happy medium is often tough. It seems to me the only way forward is to produce multiple levels of reporting in order to assure that there is always enough information available to those who wish it. Details matter.


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