When a statistics producer releases a statistic or other data, it does not exist in a vacuum. People may access the statistic, try to understand its insights, use it, form judgements based on what they have learnt, and ultimately make decisions and take certain actions. Statistics are central to public debate – in the media and in policy decisions. Consequently, how a statistic is accessed and used is as important as its production for determining whether it serves the public good.
OSR has already commissioned some research into how statistics are understood by the public, such as Jessica McMaster’s review on statistical literacy. However, we want to further enrich our understanding of consumption of statistics, including how statistics are used by individuals and organisations. We have greater knowledge in some areas, for example we have a programme of work on Analytical Leadership in government which (in part) seeks to uphold the integrity of analytical evidence and support robust evidence in policy development, but we are seeking a wider and more detailed picture of the role of evidence in decision-making by a range of users.
A deeper understanding of the role of statistics in public debate better enables its protection and promotion. However, as a regulator we must also understand the threats to the role of statistics. Whilst we have investigated misinformation, and we intervene directly in instances of misuse, this is a fast-changing environment and additional research is always welcome.
If you would like to share evidence or collaborate with us on any of these areas, please contact us at email@example.com.
This question was published as part of the set of ARIs in this document:
Repeated reports by the ESRC have pointed to the shortage of social science undergraduate students with even basic quantitative methods skills. This is a situation that is harmful to the on-going viability and vitality o...
Funded by: ESRC
Lead research organisation: University of Bristol
The project addresses the misuse of statistics in the context of education and proposes a solution to improve statistical literacy, which is relevant to the question's focus on misuse and misinformation propagation.
In the UK we have several large and complex datasets that reveal a lot of information about the characteristics of the general population. One of the main ESRC investments is a new study called "Understanding Societ...
Funded by: ESRC
Lead research organisation: University of Lincoln
The project aims to improve quantitative skills among students, indirectly addressing the misuse of statistics by enhancing understanding and proper use of data.
Public health decision makers and the public are exposed to a wide range of research evidence, that can often conflict or be uncertain. The way this evidence is presented, in scientific journals, political debates and in...
Funded by: MRC
Lead research organisation: University of Glasgow
The project explores how health information is communicated and used in policy debates, which is relevant to the question's focus on misuse of data and statistics.