“Journalists have a strong bs detector; statisticians have a strong ‘bad science’ detector.”

STATS advisory board member, Gallaudet professor, and science journalist Regina Nuzzo explains why journalists and statisticians should collaborate at JSM2015, August 10, Seattle.

STATS check

Just how reliable was that study? You’ve read or heard that alarming headline, but does the experimental design or the data support it?

The Drink of Death click here
The Audacity of Dope click here
Fracking and Babies click here

For more analyses click here

STATS help

Journalists—why not ask a statistician about that study before you write about it? Our volunteer advisory board of academic statisticians is here to help you. Just give us a reasonable deadline!

click here

Read how the STATS board helped one investigative journalist at Columbia Journalism Review.

STATS savvy

It’s a big bad data world out there; you need to be statistically savvy:

Causation vs Correlation click here
Statistical Comparisons click here
The Problem of Selection Bias click here
Odds or Probability? click here

 

Features

“There is a base level of understanding of statistics that journalists need to have because it’s just too easy to be misled. It’s just way too easy to be misled. There are studies that look good and they’re just crap.

To some extent as journalists—even a statistically informed journalist like me—we’re dependent on our sources. I don’t have the sophistication to evaluate every study out there statistically, but I have people that I can go to and say, ‘Is this any good?’ There is a level of savvy that you need to have to know what kind of questions to ask and to be able to make sense of what your sources say.

Some studies are so bad they fail a quick sniff test; you read them and immediately say, ‘I don’t think so.’ For example, when you’ve got some study that makes outrageous claims with a very small number of participants, you know, don’t waste your time. But sometimes you need to look more closely to see the problems, and it takes a bit more sophisticated knowledge to see them. So if you’re covering anything with studies, there is a base level of statistics that you need to have.”

Freelance journalist Julie Rehmeyer received the 2015 Excellence in Statistical Reporting Award from the American Statistical Association. Photographed at Victrola Coffee Roasters, Seattle, August 2015.

Know a Lot About Statistics?

We want to hear from you!

How many times have you watched the news or read a magazine article and seen a statistical blooper? How often have you wished you could explain to them how to get the statistics right?

Next time that happens, get involved! Drop us a note telling us what you saw or read and why it was wrong. Or, alternatively, share why the writer got it right and should be applauded.

We can help your voice be heard through stats.org. We want to have more statisticians and data-driven scientists writing for a general audience, which means your input is essential.

Be part of stats.org by suggesting a topic and working with us to get it written. Be part of creating a conversation about the importance of statistical literacy.

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