Friday, November 04, 2011

A little knowledge is....the BBC!

This is one of the best stats teachable moments I think I have seen in a long time.

An article was published, listing cancer rates of an admittedly dangerous disease.

The BooBC weighs in, noting that the variation is three times as large for some parts of this nationwide sample.

Dr. Goldacre, perhaps a trifle gleefully, points out that these are SEPARATE local samples, and they have associated variance that comes from the sample size. He writes a nice piece, with a fine funnel graph, and notes that the internet is a groovy, groovy thing, because it enables people like this to check things stated as fact by experts like the BooBC.

The BBC "stands by its story." They failed, utterly, to understand the very basic mistake they had made in looking at the information. (Of course, in journalism indoctrination school, they never had to learn any of those nasty stats stuff!)

As Dr. Goldacre put it in a tweet: "Dear sir, I have completely failed to understand a simple criticism of our work, please tell everyone, yours, BBCnews"

My own favorite bit is that in the BBC rebuttal, there are two parts:
1. We did not make a mistake.
2. Why are you picking on us? Lots of people made the same mistake!

Fantastic stuff. A Lagniappe: they are holding a "Bowel Cancer Comedy Night." No way even the Onion could get away with that.

1 comment:

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