Data makes the modern world function. It’s at the heart of decision making by companies, governments, politicians, advisers, and experts of all kinds – and if it isn’t, then it should be! Data, a valuable global resource, attracts a swarm of interest from those wishing to use it for purposes ranging from commercial gain to disinformation and propaganda. Whenever it’s presented to us, therefore, we should always wonder if the data itself is dubious, if the analysis of it is dubious, and if decisions based on these items are themselves dubious. Why? Because if we feel decisions are dubious, then disillusionment and distrust sets in and this is a really difficult trend to turn around.
A friend with a knack for uncovering ‘dodgy data’, ‘dodgy analysis’, and hence ‘dodgy decisions’ on IT projects emailed recently lamenting how politicians and the scientists at their side could present some erroneous data in explaining the decision for England to enter a 2nd COVID lockdown. They questioned whether the data, and the analysis of its consequences, ever got independently challenged or verified before being presented to the public? One would hope so, but it doesn’t feel like it, so we can hardly blame the media for making hay on the topic, or the public for becoming increasingly sceptical and distrustful.
Dubious data, dubious analysis and dubious decisions are manifest everywhere in our modern, globally connected world. The item here about a COVID-relevant study regarding Hydroxychloroquine just emphasises that ‘verification and assurance’ isn’t as strong as it should be with a last sentence saying ‘Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of it all is that the WHO and two entire countries halted trials of a potentially life-saving drug following the results of a single study that they failed to independently verify’.
Of course, honest mistakes happen, but the Badger senses that ‘verification and assurance’ is getting ever weaker, which is worrisome when every institution or corporation is becoming more creative in using data to push their own agenda, ideology, or bias. Whenever information is presented to the general public making the case for an important decision, therefore, it has to be right that we can trust its efficacy and that it has been subjected to challenge using robust independent processes before being presented.
In a world where misunderstanding, despondency, disillusionment, and distrust develops in seconds, we deserve to know that decisions conveyed by leaders are underpinned by sound data and analysis. If excellent ‘verification and assurance’ functions are not embedded or truly effective in our institutions and corporations then distrust, disillusionment, and cynicism will become the baseline for our day to day lives. Surely we don’t want that? Perhaps it’s time that ‘verification and assurance functions’ got more attention from the media before, rather than after, key announcements? Oh dear, perhaps bias has crept in here, after all the Badger turned from being an expert poacher into an expert ‘verification and assurance’ gamekeeper a number of times in his career…