December 15, 2019

The Editor speaks: Statistics

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Colin Wilson

Caribbean Statistics Day passed us by here in the Cayman Islands without even a whimper.

If there were any government press releases they failed to meet my desk.

I was only aware of it today (16) that is was yesterday (15) when two PR’s arrived for me albeit one day late.

How has it made me feel to have missed the rightful day? Are you dear readers quaking in your boots that this monumental day of stats was missed?

Most likely you are like me. You couldn’t care a bit.

But, are we wrong? How important are statistics?

According to outgoing Chief Statistician for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Gatlin Roberts,and sent to us by the OECS, “Before being assigned to the Statistical Office, I had never heard of that office. I didn’t choose [statistics], it chose me.” That was March 8th 1982.

It was not long before she found herself enveloped in the work of the office, its importance and the passion that radiated from her fellow coworkers.

Her desire is to see a greater use of statistics in decision and policy making, particularly in small island developing states.

The other article we received is from Caricom. This one actually does provide us with arguably some good reasons for stats. It particularly mentions weather forecasting.

The PR says:

“A very critical use of statistics is in weather forecasting which uses statistical modelling techniques to make predictions or forecasts. More importantly, if it is the case that a hurricane is likely, modelling its path makes use of data that also inform on the number of persons that are likely to be affected.

“It is therefore possible to warn or move persons out of these areas, and to provide basic data for national disaster management and other agencies that provide support and interventions after the event and to assess and to better inform the recovery efforts.

“One important and interesting indicator that we try to measure in the Region is the Number of Households/Persons that are near to coastal areas. For some of our Member States this figure is approximately 100%.

“The importance of such data was underlined in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian which struck The Bahamas last month with loss of lives, destruction of property, damage to the infrastructure and overall devastation to parts of the country.”

I could be sarcastic and say how many lives were saved by all the stats? That, however, is not the fault of the stats. It is the fault of whoever did not make use of them.

I urge you to read both PR’s. I suppose my sarcasm at stats is the absolutely useless one that TV commentators, especially the US ones we have to listen to whilst watching Sports. The last time a goal was scored by a player with a beard. A golfer who has missed three puts after scratching his behind. A baseball pitcher who has only failed to strike out the batter when he has touched his cap or scratched his ####!

There are, unfortunately, more of these totally ludicrous stats than the ones that do matter.

I will try and respect the persons who labour in preparing our stats a lot more.

Sorry I missed the rightful day to applaud it.

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