DrDave's blog

Everyone knows one quote about statistics

...but it invariably is Disraeli's one about lies and damned lies*.  I hope this one gains a bit of circulation:

"A microscope enables you to see things which are too small to be seen by the naked eye; statistics enables you to see things in masses of data which are too complicated for the naked eye."

There are some nice people about

We commissioned a bit of programming many years ago to produce the nifty charts you see in our Young People reports.  Previously David McG used to craft each one lovingly by hand, which took some time and made him more familiar than he wanted to be with the bugs in Microsoft chart software.  The commissioned software grabbed the figures from SPSS, drew a chart in SIgmaplot, and dropped the result onto the right page of the report.  Magic, if fairly expensive magic.

Research Fossil 2

Compare Research Fossil 1

I should caution that these data have nothing like the scope of the primary survey, being drawn from a smaller collection of schools over a longer period of time.  But as was said before, the point of the surveys is to prompt local discussion and local action. 

Research Fossil 1

No, not me... I just came across a table in my papers that I have always enjoyed looking at, and thought I'd share it.

A Sad Week

It's been a sad week as many of our friends and colleagues lost their jobs in local authorities at the end of March. 

The energy and momentum of the Healthy Schools programme was inspiring and we hope that the networks that have been created around the country and the lessons learned over the last ten years will be preserved.

Homophobic bullying

Article (and namecheck) by Johann Hari:


See also:


Home-made online surveys can make a monkey of us all

I expect you are familiar with the admonishment from TV programmes, "Don't try this at home!".  What you are watching is for professionals, who know what they are doing, but if you try it, you might make a mess of it, and that is dangerous.  If you're watching Mythbusters or Brainiac, making a mess of it might involve some nasty burns at the very least.  But what about survey work, surely that's harmless enough?  Well, let me share some thoughts with you.


"Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby!", said GBS, but typically there's not a lot of overlap between my day job in health and education and my pastime of chess.

Then two come along at once :)

My colleague David McGeorge called to my attention to some research about going second, which looked at penalty shoot-outs and the game of chess.

Inequalities and health behaviours

Consultants, I believe, are fond of saying, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it," and I have a lot of sympathy with that view. So, while Government target-setting may be reduced, the need for recent, local figures is not.

The difference is significant

If you have had reports from us before, you may have seen tables which bear some coded markings, like this:

* p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001 (Chi-squared)

Asterisks show where the differences seen between figures are statistically significant, that is, unlikely to be due to chance.  Just how unlikely is shown by the number of asterisks, where *** says that fewer than one in a thousand similar studies would yield a result as different as this by chance alone.


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