From Chinese press

Statisticians have greater duty

Updated: 2011-05-16 08:03

(China Daily)

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People are confused by figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on urban residential expenditure. But the NBS has blamed misinterpretation for causing the confusion, saying some people are trying to mar its reputation and sincerity. It has said that instead of slandering the bureau, such people should put forward "constructive suggestions", says an article in China Youth Daily. Excerpts:

Most ordinary people understand little or nothing about the science of statistics. So it is natural that sometimes they misunderstand the data released by government departments.

It is, in fact, the responsibility of statistics bureau officials to interpret them in a way that most people can understand. The officials have no reason to be angry with the misinterpretations.

Besides, some people question the figures not because they cannot understand them, but because they do not make any sense. The NBS has to accept that there have been deviations in results in the past because of differences in statistical scope, approaches and survey samples.

What the public has censured the most this time are some findings closely related to people's lives, such as average income levels and housing expenses. In cases where the contrast between objective data and subjective feeling is too sharp, statisticians should select their tools, methods and samples with discretion and caution to prevent inaccuracies from creeping into the results.

Misunderstandings or misinterpretations are unavoidable in the dissipation of knowledge. That's why explanations and communication are indispensable.

The officials are not justified in labeling public criticism as slander. At best, the criticisms can be called misjudgments - which may not be a good thing, but that is another question.

(China Daily 05/16/2011 page9)


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