David Spiegelhalter

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A popular view of scientists is that they deal with certainties, but they are (or should be) the first to admit the limitations in what they know. Yet can scientists admit uncertainty and still be trusted by politicians and the public? Or would the language of possibilities and probabilities merely shift attention to those with more strident, confident arguments?

Nobody is expected to predict the future exactly. So there is generally no problem in acknowledging the risk of everyday activities, and it is natural to use past experience to be open and precise about the uncertainties. Patients may, for example, be told that for every one million operations there are expected to be five deaths related to the anaesthetic — that’s an anaesthetic risk of five micromorts (a one-in-a-million chance of dying) per operation.…  Seguir leyendo »

It could have been designed to make me feel inadequate. I am a professor of risk, and when my daughter Rosie wanted to spend part of her gap year working on a newspaper, she chose, with a true nose for a story, to go to Mexico.

So it is assumed that I know the chances of her, and everyone else, getting or even dying of, swine flu. But I just don't know; risk is such an odd thing - no instrument can measure it but it constantly changes as we find out more information, just as the odds on Barack Obama being President oscillated wildly in the year before the election.…  Seguir leyendo »