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This topic was discussed in a few of the past Salons. Have at it.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Aug 27th, 2008 at 04:00:04 PM EST
Great to see the cross-post!

Having worked in/with various civil service stats depts in Wales it doesn't surprise me when stats are used in a linear and too simple way like you've outlined here. When carried out internally as an ongoing stats collection and analysis process, I've not seen great access to systems that could allow for more complex modelling of different scenarios to give better predictability. So it comes down to the capabilities and forethought of the stats people which is variable. A different matter if a big piece of research or trend analysis is commissioned.

I would have expected more to be put in at European level though.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Aug 27th, 2008 at 05:39:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I also highly praise the concept of the cross-post.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Aug 27th, 2008 at 05:51:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In addition to her praise of the cross-post of the concept?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 28th, 2008 at 05:43:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you mean by "systems?"

Surely not a lack of software? You can do quite sophisticated models with GNUPLOT and a cheap FORTRAN compiler.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 28th, 2008 at 04:12:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know exactly what software that the Assembly stats people have access to but the two you mention I have never come across - what may be in common use within academia doesn't necessarily find it's way into the public sector.

When I worked as a data analyst we developed all of our own tools in Excel, Access and Snap since that was all we had!

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 28th, 2008 at 04:55:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Poor windows users...

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 28th, 2008 at 05:34:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can model anything you want with a spreadsheet (even with Excel ;-) - they are Turing complete! And modern spreadsheets (such as Excel) are augmented with Visual Basic or some other bona-fide programming language.

If people don't do scenario analysis is because they can't or won't, not because the software won't support it.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 28th, 2008 at 05:36:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Doing scenario analysis efficiently requires some degree of training. Whereas we'd have training on the software, eg VB, we weren't trained to apply it and nobody in the team I worked in was actually qualified to do so. It was all developed through experience, so you can see how oversights would arise in that example.

Organisations such as the Office for National Statistics would be a very different matter and entry to jobs there requires rigorous standards to be met eg stats/maths related degree.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 28th, 2008 at 05:45:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So the people producing these statistics don't know anything about statistics?

Because these news items often sound as if someone has decided the graph starts here and their one and only data point goes there and if they draw a straight line - it's a news story!

But it's the media, so silliness abounds.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Aug 28th, 2008 at 06:34:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reminds me of the astrophysics PhD candidate who wanted to fit a regression line to 4 points (the guy only had 4 gamma-ray bursts to work with, unfortunately).

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 28th, 2008 at 06:42:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, you know the joke about black sheep in Scotland :-P

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 28th, 2008 at 06:46:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, that's what you can expect from a press that's being fed ready-made "stories" from belief tanks. But I'm dumbstruck that a government institution would use Excel for anything more serious than the coffee club's accounting.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 28th, 2008 at 06:45:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But I'm dumbstruck that a government institution would use Excel for anything more serious than the coffee club's accounting.

Why? Excel/VBA skills are in high demand for investment banking research jobs.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 28th, 2008 at 06:53:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why not use Excel?

The journal Computational Statistics & Data Analysis has a whole special issue on the subject.

I am teaching a graduate course of ecologists and forestry students this year, where Xcel will be outlawed. I expect much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but I won't have it in my lab. Plus, gnuplot produces better graphics. Better than R (ducks)

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 06:51:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So the people producing these statistics don't know anything about statistics?

Sometimes yes.  Not all Govt institutions though but at least a small number I have come into contact with.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 28th, 2008 at 10:16:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Different scenarios don't give better predictability, they provide stress-testing of assumptions and illuminate extreme cases (not somethign you actually predict) and blind spots in qualitative projections.

It always comes down to capabilities and forethought because of the GIGO problem.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Aug 28th, 2008 at 05:42:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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