In preparation for her presentation at the upcoming ASAE Annual Meeting (ASAE14), I’ve been reading Noreena Hertz’s Eyes Wide Open (www.noreena.com). My goal was to get an upfront idea of Noreena and have an idea of what she might discuss.
In her chapter titled, “Overcome Your Math Anxiety,” Hertz suggests:
- Make sure to ask yourself how the numbers were generated. What was the methodology that underpinned them? And, how does it relate to the claims being made?
- Reflect on whether the questions asked are likely to promote a particular response over another.
- Check to see if the data being presented has been cherry-picked – sliced and diced in a particular way so as to make a particular point.
- When presented with an estimate of risk, check whether it’s an estimate of absolute risk (e.g., a 1 percent chance that you will have a heart attack) or an estimate of relative risk (e.g., a 30 percent decrease in your chance of experiencing a heart attack.)
I get frustrated with news stories that use “biased” surveys to push a specific point of view. In fact, I posted my concerns in a blog titled Poll/Survey Results: Advocacy or Knowledge for Associations?
In addition to the advice Hertz shares, I suggest that your also need to examine the models/assumptions that influenced the research design. We are exposed to much “economic modeling” today ... if the researcher have a bias, they can establish assumptions that influence the outcomes of their economic models.
If your association is engaged in advocating a specific point of view, you can use research to advance your points. And, the media today loves to share results of research so such a study can result in positive publicity about your issue.