How to convey uncertainty

February 3, 2009

In current issue of Psychological Science:

Improving Communication of Uncertainty in the Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
David V. Budescu, Stephen Broomell, and Han-Hui Por
When communicating information about uncertainty, the use of probability terms such as “unlikely,” “likely,” “probable,” or “virtually certain” may lead to confusion and errors. Participants assigned numerical values of probability to such terms used in a major 2007 report on climate change. Despite having access to the author panel’s guidelines for interpreting probability terms, respondents significantly overestimated the amount of imprecision in the climate-change findings being conveyed. An alternative approach to communicating uncertainty—one whose precision matches the precision of the evidence—would improve readers’ understanding of the findings and thereby enhance the foundation for sound policy decisions.

Relevant in many places including in particular intelligence analysis.


Evidence-based policy

January 30, 2009

From a speech by Kevin Rudd:

A third element of the Government’s agenda for the public service is to ensure a robust, evidence-based policy making process.

Policy design and policy evaluation should be driven by analysis of all the available options, and not by ideology.

When preparing policy advice for the Government, I expect
departments to review relevant developments among State and Territory
governments and comparable nations overseas.

The Government will not adopt overseas models uncritically.

We’re interested in facts, not fads.

But whether it’s aged care, vocational education or disability
services, Australian policy development should be informed by the best
of overseas experience and analysis.

In fostering a culture of policy innovation, we should trial new
approaches and policy options through small-scale pilot studies.

It may be appropriate to collaborate with a State government, a
business organisation, a research centre or a community organisation.

It may even be appropriate to cooperate on policy innovation with a
government agency overseas, such as we are now doing on climate change
with the United Kingdom.

Policy innovation and evidence-based policy making is at the heart of being a reformist government.

Innovation can help us deliver better policy and better outcomes for the whole community.

This means that we want the culture of the APS to foster new ideas
and new directions – and not to let the narrow interests of particular
branches or agencies stand in the way of innovation.


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