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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Fienburg memorial lecture talks sensationalism and statistics | CMU The Tartan Online

“Numbers do not speak for themselves,” said Sir David Spiegelhalter, a world-renowned statistician, to a crowd of nearly 100 professors and students who had gathered in McConomy Auditorium to hear him speak, according to Jacob Paul,  Layout Manager - The Tartan.

Sir David Spiegelhalter visited from Cambridge to discuss statisitcal reporting in the second Fienburg memorial lecture.
Photo: Jacob Paul/Layout Manager
“The stories we tell, the way they’re packaged makes all the difference to their emotional impact.”

We are living in the age of data. Technology plays a bigger role in people’s daily lives than ever before, and many of society’s core issues can be reframed as statistical problems. Yet it is also the age of misinformation, and the field of statistics is facing more challenges than ever before.

Sir David Spiegelhalter’s lecture on Monday, April 22, was the second installment of the Stephen and Joyce Fienberg memorial lecture series. Stephen Fienberg, who died of cancer in 2016, was the head of the Carnegie Mellon statistics department. He was highly respected and influential in the field of statistics for his dedication to applying statistics for societal good. Joyce Fienberg, Stephen Fienbergs’s wife who perished in the Tree of Life synagogue shooting last Oct., worked as a researcher at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh and was a great supporter and friend of the statistics department at Carnegie Mellon.

“Steve sets a high bar for how statistic are communicated,” said Sir David Spiegelhalter. In his lecture, he focused on how statistics are manipulated for sensational and persuasive means. Spiegelhalter serves as a chair at the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, which is part of the University of Cambridge’s department of mathematics...

Spiegelhalter resolved that statisticians need to demonstrate trustworthiness by being honest about where uncertainty lies in their studies. Research has shown that audiences do not trust a range (between A and B) any less than a single result (A). For accountability, the background information of any study should be made accessible and readable.

Because of this responsibility, Spiegelhalter closed his lecture by calling for statisticians to be trained in ethics and communication, and to be more active in the public sphere.
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Source: CMU The Tartan Online