The article 'Teaching statistics through the law' by KJ Byun and John S Croucher has been awarded the C Oswald George prize for 2018.
Although the prosecutor’s fallacy and the famous People vs Collins case have long been used as examples in teaching conditional probability and Bayes theorem, this article introduces new contexts and discussion points, and emphasizes the extent of rich authentic material for developing statistical and probabilistic concepts in complex real situations.
By introducing the DNA context, the article provides a new rich context for discussion of the prosecutor’s fallacy and a novel extension of conditional probability learning to the defence lawyer fallacy. As well as providing another example of prosecutor’s fallacy, the tragic Sally Clark case illustrates the prevalence and dangers of lack of foundational statistical understanding through: lack of identification of issues and context; inappropriate data for estimates of probabilities; and, most importantly, misunderstanding of conditional probabilities and incorrect multiplication of probabilities. Although another problem, namely some missing (pathology) data/information, was not statistical, it also illustrates for students the need for constant alertness to possible queries in evidence-based decision-making.
Hence the article brings together a rich diversity of authentic and open-ended law contexts for students and instructors to explore critical fundamental statistical concepts. It’s an excellent article for someone relatively new to teaching statistics. It is well-written, forces the reader to think, and deals with 'real-world' applications of statistics.
History of the prize
Dr C Oswald George was an eminent government statistician in the UK; one of the founders of the UK’s Institute of Statistics who served as Chairman and President. He donated a sum of money for the ‘best paper, especially submitted by younger authors, in the field of applied statistics’. The prize was subsequently attached to the Institute's own professional exams. After the formation of Teaching Statistics in 1979, the Institute made the prize money available for the best article in Teaching Statistics, and this prize has continued to be made available following the merger of the Institute with the Royal Statistical Society. Dr C Oswald George died on 6 January 1974, but we are pleased to be able to honour his legacy each year through the award of this prize to the ‘best’ article in Teaching Statistics.