Do you recognise any of these?
They – and others – are going to be very, very busy this year; some already are. This year’s UK general election is going to be the most fact-checked ever.
Yes, of course, politicians beware.
But what about those that feed numbers, data and stats to the politicians? Or make them available for public consumption?
If politicians are embarrassed because their source – your organisation – has made mistakes, how’s that going to affect your reputation with the next minister or select committee member?
So how are your organisation’s stats?
Will they stand up to a rigorous fact-check – directly or indirectly?
Are they easy to find? Are they up-to-date? Are they robust or might they crumble? Are they relevant? Are they trustworthy?
Above all, are they both easy to understand and easy for users to communicate to others?
There are some good resources out there, such as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ guidelines on using statistics in communications (I declare an interest as one of its authors); Sense About Science has a downloadable booklet; the Royal Statistical Society has good general resources; and there are also some tips here on my web site and in various blog postings.
Here are five:
* check and reference all sources – make it easy for others to reassure themselves of your credibility
* a precise figure can be horribly wrong – check all calculations as a decimal point even one place out is a factor of ten
* not all averages are equal – make sure you’re using the ones that are most appropriate
* risk is not just relative, it is absolute – don’t quote the former without the latter
* variation is natural so be consistent with your baseline years – cherry-picking the peaks and troughs to make a case damages integrity
And, a plug for business… my stats health-check services make sure that your numbers are both as robust and as well communicated as possible, with comprehensive advice on presentation, commentary and visualisation.
These checks draw on my career as a communications professional, my maths and stats education, and my experiences both as a campaigner and as past parliamentary candidate.