LACK OF CULTURE OF CORRECTING NUMERICAL INFORMATION
By Mathza 03/11/10
I thank Abel for his article ‘Incompetence or Carelessness?” (aigaforum.com, 2/23/10) http://aigaforum.com/articles/Incompetence_or_Carelessness.htm. I agree with his observations. I have been promising myself to write a short piece on this very subject matter. Now that he has done it to my satisfaction, I do not need to do so. However, I would like to further reinforce the importance of providing accurate data and the negative impact of erroneous information.
Figures, particularly those related to statistics, are the main victims. Some are due to topographical errors. Others lack units of measurement or are incorrectly labeled, such as meter instead of kilometer. Many are either exaggerated or highly reduced, i.e. billions instead of millions and vice-versa. And some government officials have been citing varying figures for the same statistical information. GDP rate of growth is a good example in this regard.
Statistics are the best and relatively easily understood means of conveying information. Improper handling of figures, however, can create confusion. Some readers may not fully conceptualize the size of the figures quoted because of inadequate knowledge and/or statistical background to enable them to judge if the figures make sense. In the end, they are forced to accept flawed statistical information as fact. Besides, others may quote these erroneous figures, thus propagating the process of misinformation.
Rarely does one observe corrections of erroneous statistical information subsequent to their appearance in the media. Such rampant inaction on the part of those responsible is intolerable. It is tantamount to misinforming the public. This is contrary to what they are supposed to be doing. Let us hope that from now on the media, both public and private, will be held accountable for misinforming the public when it fails to take corrective actions in regard to incomprehensible numerical information.