We’re not all statisticians but we are all, to some extent, programmed to reason statistically. In a bid to make sense of the world around us, we compare, contrast, look for patterns and are drawn to a statistical technique called correlation, a way of measuring the extent to which a change in one measurable thing – a ‘variable’ – is associated with the change in another measurable thing.
Indeed, you can calculate the correlation between pretty much any two things which can be quantified, counted and measured. But Statistics doesn’t operate as a set of techniques, its value is in providing insight into a problem, so if you are going to calculate correlations it makes sense for there to be some reason for doing it i.e. because you want to take action of some kind. SO there’s no point in looking for correlation between things which aren’t measurable such as eye colour and personality traits, or others which are clearly connected e.g. breast cancer and wearing skirts?. Or between entirely random things such as how many tatoos someone has and the amount of jam they eat each week. Any connection, mirroring or linearity found has to be down to chance. ’Findings’ here won’t tell you anything useful.
For social scientists, there have traditionally been a number of sources from which to get economic, government and census data. Now there is a new online resource which promises to put all of these sources into one place. Simon Briscoe, who serves on its governing board, reports.
The UK Data Service is a new initiative which offers a single access point to a wide range of social and economic data. The new body came into existence at the end of last year and its visible face, the website, went live this month.