Stuff explained: What is open data and why should you care about it?

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Open data is, basically,  the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control. A piece of data is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web talks about open data in this TED talk:

 

“Opening up data is fundamentally about more efficient use of resources and improving service delivery for citizens.  The effects of that are far reaching: innovation, transparency, accountability, better governance and economic growth.”

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The idea would be: if you make your datasets open to the public, more researchers would have the opportunity to play with it and see what gives; potentially expanding knowledge. This can be particularly helpful for those operating on limited resources of their own: a lot of researchers using open data come from the global South/open data is being very successfully used by research informing policymakers in developed countries; see, for example, Ghana’s open data initiative or the Open Data Research network.

Now, Sir Berners-Lee makes another interesting distinction:

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Monday Graph: attitudes to immigration by political party

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Courtesy of British Future (via)

In a poll carried out by Ipsos Mori for British Future, people were asked: to give the contribution of immigration to Britain on a score of 0 (entirely negative) to 10 (entirely positive).

The results are below

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What we see:

-Roughly about 1 in 5 of all voters gave immigration a 0; about 1 in 4 gave it a score higher than 7

-UKIP voters quite unsurprisingly stand out in that 41% gave it a 0 and only 5% (so one in 20) 7 or higher.

-Conservative voters cover the anti-immigration side and middle ground quite evenly, but they are unlikely to give immigration a score higher than 7

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On leading/ loaded questions and response bias (or: David Cameron wants to know my views on immigration)

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I swear, I stated this blog to write about the practice of research, about how we can sociologically understand the world and to promote the latest interesting studies. NOT to pick on David Cameron.

Yet, just a week after writing about Voodoo Polls, while I was peacefully checking my Facebook…

facebook feedBlimey, so David Cameron wants me to click on his survey and tell him how I feel about immigration.

Now, kids, what was I saying last time?

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Monday Graph: Aheists, Jews and Mormons most knowledgeable about religions

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Jay Livingston at Sociological Images writes about a Pew quiz on religious knowledge.

Turns out, it is the Atheists and Agnostics who scored best on the quiz, followed closely by Jews and Mormons; whereas Catholics and Protestants seem to fall behind.

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As for the explanation, Livingston has got a quite provocative-one:

“One reason for their higher scores might be education – college graduates outscore high school or less by nearly 8 points out of 32. It may be that nonbelievers, Jews, and Mormons are more likely to have finished college. […]

But another reason that these groups scored higher may be their position as religious minorities. Jews and Mormons have to explain to the flock how their ideas are different from those of the majority. Atheists and agnostics too, in their questioning and even rejecting,  have probably devoted more thought to religion, or more accurately, religions. On the questions about Shiva and Nirvana, they leave even the Jews and Mormons far behind.

For Protestants and Catholics, by contrast, learning detailed information about their religion is not as crucial. Just as White people in the US rarely ask what it means to be White, Christians need not worry about their differences from the mainstream. They are the mainstream.”

Read Jay Livingston’s full article here.

A quick recap for David Cameron

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David Cameron the mask slips

(via)

So, glancing at the paper on my way to work yesterday, I came across this :

“Cameron also joked about taking legal action against pollsters who suggested the two campaigns were neck and neck, when the final result saw 55% vote no to independence and 45% yes.

“I’ve said I want to find these polling companies and I want to sue them for my stomach ulcers because of what they put me through. It was very nervous moments,” he said.”

Now, now… see what that statistical margin of error can do? The moral, gentle readers, is that learning about statistics can save you a stomach ache.

Also, do learn how to read demographic stats, too.

On “voodoo polls” and why we shouldn’t ever use them

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So, after writing about David Cameron’s shoddy use of statistics in the Telegraph and now the margin of error in one YouGov poll that might just have changed the fate of the referendum and what happens after, I found myself thinking a lot about how official statistics and opinion polls are being used and reported in the media, and what pitfalls lie there.

Today, for instance, i want to talk about the “voodoo poll”, so called because it’s about as scientific as voodoo (and presumably because for the serious researcher seeing it reported as a serious poll in the media feels like a stab in the heart from a distance).

voodoo-doll-miles-woods(via)

A “voodoo poll”, or open access poll, is one where a non-probability sample of participants self-select into participation.

In human language: sampling is the use of a subset of the population to represent the whole population. In probability sampling (random sampling), we have ways of calculating the probability of getting any particular sample, and therefore we can rigorously infer from the sample to the general population.In non-probability sampling, we do not; and therefore we need to use them with care.

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The 3% margin of error- and how it can change a political debate

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As I’m writing this post right now, we’ve been knowing for sure for several hours: with 55% of “no” votes, Scotland is staying in the UK. On a quick look at my Twitter feed, I’m getting a mixed bag of relief, celebration, introspection, ‘what next’ concern and that rant from Trainspotting (nsfw).

The one comment that caught my eye, however, came from Sussex Uni fellow Ben Stanley.

We surely do remember that YouGov poll:

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