Quick Summary of Second and Third Sessions of “Visualisation and Presentation in Statistics”

Kevin McConway ( http://statistics.open.ac.uk/People/k.j.mcconway @kjm2 ): showing off some gratuitous use of numbers to illustrate Guardian stories #ouvpstats
Where do surveys reported in the press come from? ONS, market research companies. PR companies…… #ouvpstats
Get paid to do a (PR?) survey onepoll.com and youngpoll.com #ouvpstats
Not PR commissioned polls, err, maybe, err, hmmm…. http://72point.com/ #ouvpstats
Why are there numbers in the news? PR, Entertainment, eyecandy. Special status of “number facts” #ouvpn
Mary Poovey “A History of the Modern Fact” http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/H/bo3614698.html #ouvpn
Need to distinguish between facts, analysis and narrative… #ouvpstats
What’s wrong with PR stats? ’tis the road to cynicism, or looking good rather than communicating well #ouvpstats
So what can we do about it? Statisticians need to engage with the public and work with journalists #ouvpstats
Statisticians’ view of journalists: innumerate, distort and oversimplify, don’t understand quantitative reasoniong, won’t listen #ouvpstats
Journalists’ view of statisticians: illiterate pedantic, boring, focus on ifs and buts, won’t listen #ouvpstats
Journalists work to tight timescales, have a view of “newsworrthiness”, are good storytellers #ouvpstats

Martin Bland ( https://hsciweb.york.ac.uk/research/public/Staff.aspx?ID=129 )
From papers during one issue from 1972 and 2010 Lancet and BMJ, mean population size has gone up 2-3 orders of magniture (tens to thousands+
Description of stats: very cursory, 2010: far more comprehensive statistical method reported. Shift from significance testing to estimation
Move towards evidence-based medicine starting around 1990s (bound to includes statistics)
“Why do we need some large, simple randomized trials?” Yusuf et al. 1984
Move to confidence intervals not p-values Gardner & Altman http://www.bmj.com/content/292/6522/746.abstract
Journals started to introduce systematic requires and statistical referees
Consort guidelines for stats in randomised medical trials http://www.consort-statement.org/
Statisticians should point out where wrong conclusions have been drawn as a results of stats mistakes…

Rosemary Bailey http://www.maths.qmul.ac.uk/~rab/
Problems with box and whisker plots (referred to as box and aerial/antenna plot?), which are now popular in medicine, biology, engineering (not least becuase folk don’t know what the whisker means). Antenna doesn’t take into account variability across conditions. [My naive understanding of these diagrams is that they are trying to say something different? But my knowledge is so hazy I can’t argue for what I do think they describe!]
Hasse diagrams – cords, dyes and constants(?) [I’m a bit lost at this point…]

Michel van de Velden http://www.erim.eur.nl/ERIM/People/Person_Details?p_aff_id=799
Perceptual maps – mutltivariate methods for plotting high-dimensional data
Exploit natural spatial recognition/visual abilities
Examples: Tufte 1983 cleveland and McGill 1987, Wainer 2005
Caption should convey enough info to allow reader in possession of data (and appropriate tools) to recreate the perceptual map
Shape paramter (aspect ratio) – ratio of x scale to y scale. If it can be 1, it should be… (changes aspect ratio of photo of Kate Middleton to make the point about distortion if not 1 when it could/should be…)
If perception of map relies in part on angle of point/line, need to know where the origin is.
Excel charts – hard to explicity set an exact aspect ratio (same with many tools?)
Perceptual maps may require guidance as to how to read a map – e.g. icons http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1572196


Jill Leyland, Vice President, Royal Statistical Society
Lots of folk think UK official statistics are not free of politcal interference, nor do they necessarily trust(?) them, scores very poorly compared to rest of Europe.
National Stats have high integrity and free of political interference. Perception of political interference is one reason why low degree of trust. UKSA (UK Statistics Authority) scrutinises official statistics: “promoting and safeguarding the porduction and publication of statistics that serve the public good”
No politicial interference, but: many key stats produced in depts, UKSA role not fully understood (scrutineer as well as publisher); pre-release access – Ministers can see statistics 24 hrs before they are released (up to 5 days in Scotland and Wales), and suspicion that Ministers may use this time for mischief…
Role of media – UK media are interested in statistics, but “stats are wrong” stories get more covereage than “stats are right”, and journalists often don’t understand statistical issues (as well as tight deadline, no specialist knowledge). BUT official statisticians could do better; ONS website a joke… (though new one due to launch at end of August). Far too little interaction with stats users outside government.
What can be done? Continuing efforts to improve presentation; need to differerntiate between independent national statistics and those produced by departments. Better education for journalists [and statisticians eg ito communications?]; reduction/elimination of pre-release access.

Quick Summary of Opening Session of “Visualisation and Presentation in Statistics”

From @Flygirltwo: @psychemedia What’s the event? #ouvpstats Looks really interesting, especially the identified need to tell good stories around the stats.
.@Flygirltwo event is “Visualisation and Presentation in Statistics” http://bit.ly/kQyBKW #ouvpstats

John Gower (http://statistics.open.ac.uk/People/j.c.gower) availability of enticing viz tools may pose risks/danger of “improper use” #ouvpstats
Can use diagrams to help yourself come to some understanding of something, but image not necessarily useful to others,
Tools okay when used properly, but they get much “improper use”/misused
Wrote a paper on this but can’t get it published….
Problems with public understanding of statistics

Michael Blastland ( http://bbc.in/mbl9eZ ) now on… #moreorless #ouvpstats “Numbers go up, and down…” http://bbc.in/jeXvHl
Encouraging people to play their way to an understanding BUT people don’t know what questions to ask/test http://bbc.in/ln3Czz #ouvpstats
Another stats game (hospital death chance calculator) but it didn’t really work.. Storytelling is missing http://bbc.in/jh95gM #ouvpstats
Need narrative arc to help people make sense of (their use of) interactive viz. Playing gapminder animation, with no Hans Rosling #ouvpstats
Imposition of narrative means experts can say “Hmm, I’m not sure I agree with that…” #ouvpstats
Office for National Statistics is great, but little use to public. ONSstats on Youtube helps address this http://bit.ly/jLHp6B #ouvpstats
ONSstats on youtube uses narrative to help explain the stats… http://bit.ly/jLHp6B #ouvpstats
Most people don’t necessarily get much out of charts with wiggly lines #ouvpstats
Need an understanding of the underlying issues in order to engage with interactive data visualisation meaningfully #ouvpstats
Does imposition of narrative destroy opportunities for open-ended exploration eg with interactive visualisations? #ouvpstats
Qn: many statisticians come from maths background; need interdisplinary team of eg storytellers and designers…? A: Yes #ouvpstats
Fundamental dilemma: how to throw topic open to curiosity whilst providing narrative way in? #ouvpstats

From @JackieCarter: Discussion at #ouvpstats music to my ears. See http://bit.ly/lL4iBE and links from it to lots of work on this at Mimas
From @PhilDRoberts: Following #ouvpstats from my desk, gutted not to be there, have added to the Archivist see http://bit.ly/jS7tX6

Next up: John Aldrich http://bit.ly/mQAF2Z #ouvpstats
Victorian statistics… 1838 “collection and comparison of Facts which illustrate the condition of mankind” #ouvpstats
History of Victorian stats graphics by Funkhouser “Historical Development of the Graphical Representation of Statistical Data” #ouvpstats
First diagram in Statistical Journal was a line diagram in 1841 by Daniel Griffin, Limerick Literary and Scientific Society #ouvpstats
Great figure of Victorian statistics – William Farr http://bit.ly/kJdXpm – on occasion, did pictures “for special reports” #ouvpstats
Farr – “temperature and mortality of London” time series eye candy http://bit.ly/mcfB2E #ouvpstats Also reported on Crimea War…
… as did Florence Nightingale #ouvpstats Nightingale’s rose etc http://bit.ly/lzEBLO “Statistical aesthetics lagging behind”
Farr’s and Nightingale’s diagrams recognised by reviewers as remarkable but never became part of standard fare of communications #ouvpstats
First economic diagram in Statistical Journal 1847 John Towne Danson (“journalist”) – stats since passing of 1844 Bank Act #ouvpstats
W. Stanley Jevon’s statistical atlas 1860 #ouvpstats
Mulhall’s dictionary of statistics – full of pictograms BUT “real statisticians don’t do diagrams” #ouvpstats
New breed of statistician in 1890s who did make more of diagrams #ouvpstats
Visual adventurousness of mid 1800s did not become routine but time series diagrams did become routine #ouvpstats

From @agdturner: @psychemedia I wonder if you know about the work of John Snow: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Snow_(physician) #ouvstats
From @agdturner: @psychemedia And then developing on this Stan Openshaw: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stan_Openshaw #ouvstats
@agdturner yes – but talk was more on history of charts/graphs rather than geo #ouvpstats

Next up: David Spiegelhalter on visualising risk/uncertainty http://bit.ly/inRfP8 h/t to McCandless, Fry… #ouvpstats
Quick typography of probability… decimal, fraction, percentage, odds, line/bar/chart etc, static/dynamic #ouvpstats
Relevance of positive/negative framing: “1% of blah” vs “99% of blah #ouvpstats
“Icon arrays .. generally considered quite nice” [but…?!?] http://1.usa.gov/lrPHix #ouvpstats
Would Nightingale have used animation of flash had been around? Animation: http://understandinguncertainty.org/nightingale
Visual football stats/predictions kickoff.co.uk Dangers using circles (area/angles). #ouvpstats
Fox: rubbish pie chart http://bit.ly/lvVpwn #ouvpstats
“Icon arrays .. generally considered quite nice” [but…?!?] http://1.usa.gov/lrPHix #ouvpstats
Most psychology experiments “sadly small” (“and what is an f-test anyway…!?”) #ouvpstats
Simplified “x in y” language generally deemed bad practice (changing denominator then changing numerator) #ouvpstats
Don’t use probabilities in teaching probability trees… use eg a population of 100 or 1000 to develop the intuition #ouvpstats
Assessing risk/uncertainty in screening tests – animating false positives http://bit.ly/leNd83 #ouvpstats
“Cone of uncertainty” in eg hurricane forecasts #ouvpstats What’s wrong with these? eg http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/BAMS-88-5-651