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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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