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  • The Bridge Street Press
  • Hachette Audio
  • The Bridge Street Press

Bad Data: How Governments, Politicians and the Rest of Us Get Misled by Numbers

Georgina Sturge

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Politics & government

A thrilling behind-the-scenes exploration of how governments past and present have been led astray by bad data - and why it is so hard to measure things and to do it well - guided by House of Commons Library statistician Georgina Sturge

Not all statistics are created equal. Take a look behind the scenes and you'll discover that even most official data isn't the solid bedrock we think it is. It's patchy, inconsistent, full of guesswork and uncertainty - and it's playing an ever-bigger role in policy decisions.

BAD DATA takes the reader on that behind-the-scenes journey, guided by House of Commons Library statistician Georgina Sturge. Revealing the secrets of a world that is usually closed off, it will show how governments of the past and present have been led astray by bad data and explain why it is so hard to count and measure things, and how we could better handle these problems.

Discover how one Hungarian businessman's bright idea caused half a million people to go missing from UK migration statistics. Find out why it's possible for two politicians to disagree over whether poverty has gone up or down, using the same official numbers, and for both to be right at the same time. And hear about how policies like ID cards, super-casinos and stopping ex-convicts from reoffending failed to live up to their promise because they were based on shaky data.

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Georgina Sturge

Georgina Sturge is a Statistician at the House of Commons Library. She is one of a team of 12 senior statisticians who advise the 650 Members of Parliament - from all parties - on the use of statistics and who carry out research for them. Whenever there is a debate in Parliament, they compile general background information for Members and answer their direct questions.

Georgina sees first-hand how data is used in the policy process. She sees the constant demand for it, how politicians are not able to take 'no data' for an answer, how statistics get warped and how nuance and uncertainty are overlooked. She sees how important decisions being made based on data that is really not robust enough for that purpose.

Her background is in quantitative public policy analysis. She trained in this at the United Nations University and Maastricht University Graduate School of Governance. Prior to working at Parliament, she worked as a primary researcher in the fields of global development, international migration, social security, poverty and inequality. She has helped design and carry out primary data collection through large-scale population surveys in several countries.

She is a member of the Office for National Statistics' expert advisory group on population and migration statistics and an advisor to the University of Oxford's Migration Observatory.

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