Sir David Spiegelhalter: Can we trust the numbers the media give us?

Sir David Spiegelhalter is Emeritus Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University.

In the 1990s Sir David led the Medical Research Council team that developed WinBUGS (“Bayesian analysis Using Gibbs Sampling”) that only ran on MS Windows, and its successor OpenBUGS that runs on all operating systems. These are used to forecast the spread and progress of infectious disease outbreaks. Such as Flu, SARS and Ebola. Earlier Bayesian software had only been able to forecast diseases that followed specific patterns of spread and was complex to set up. His innovations made the system applicable to more diseases and also much simpler to use, It is now widely used in epidemiology and has been found to be useful in other fields as well.

Luckily, but not by chance, he won’t risk talking about any of this; sticking instead to commenting on the use of stats in the media. Hopefully, we will all be better able to distinguish between, lies, damn lies and reliable statistics after the talk.

You’ll be pleased to know that 9 out of 10 members of David’s audiences feel more confident (self assessed on a sample size of 3) about statisitics ……or was that the anti wrinkle creams?

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