A useful list of 20 concepts to help decision-makers parse how evidence can contribute to a decision, and potentially avoid undue influence by those with vested interests.
Calls for the closer integration of science in political decision-making have been commonplace for decades. However, there are serious problems in the application of science to policy — from energy to health and environment to education […] We suggest that the immediate priority is to improve policy-makers’ understanding of the imperfect nature of science. The essential skills are to be able to intelligently interrogate experts and advisers, and to understand the quality, limitations and biases of evidence. We term these interpretive scientific skills. These skills are more accessible than those required to understand the fundamental science itself, and can form part of the broad skill set of most politicians […] The harder part — the social acceptability of different policies — remains in the hands of politicians and the broader political process.
- Differences and chance cause variation
- No measurement is exact
- Bias is rife
- Bigger is usually better for sample size
- Correlation does not imply causation
- Regression to the mean can mislead
- Extrapolating beyond the data is risky
- Beware the base-rate fallacy
- Controls are important
- Randomization avoids bias
- Seek replication, not pseudoreplication
- Scientists are human
- Significance is significant
- Separate no effect from non-significance
- Effect size matters
- Study relevance limits generalizations
- Feelings influence risk perception
- Dependencies change the risks
- Data can be dredged or cherry picked
- Extreme measurements may mislead
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