It has taken me a while to become comfortable with quantitative data or “stats” though I am starting to see how in some cases quantitative data makes more sense. However, I still prefer working with qualitative data.
In many public service organizations stats are used to justify funding for programs/services. In the case of the public library stats are used to determine collections, programs and staffing levels.
Unfortunately, like any information source there is the potential for statistical data to be used in an unethical and immoral manner. Sociologist Joel Bakan points out in his book “The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power” how many private corporations misuse stats to sometimes justify inaction or abandon moral obligation thus resulting in dangerous and even fatal consequences. Baker investigates a case in the late 60s, early 70s when General Motors management hired an engineer to calculate and assess stats on one of their car models which was known to have a major design flaw. The gas tank on the Chevrolet Malibu was insufficiently protected that when impacted in a collision resulted in serious or even fatal injuries. The engineer was hired by GM to use statistical data to calculate the cost in legal damages for each potential fatality. He determined that it would be cheaper for GM to pay the legal fees for each case than it would be for them to alter the design flaw.
On a much lighter note, I happened to come across a short but fascinating film on statistics by Dr. Hans Rosling, entitled “The Joy of Statistics” about a month ago when doing some background research for my 1240 research project. Touted as a “modern museum on the Internet” Professor Hans Rosling’s website “Gap Minder” (http://www.gapminder.org/) explores some of the world’s most important trends.
The short film “The Joy of Statistics” can be watched here: http://www.gapminder.org/videos/the-joy-of-stats/
Bakan, J. (2004). The corporation: The pathological pursuit of profit and power. New York: Penguin Books.
Rosling, H. (2012). The joy of statistics. Retrieved from http://www.gapminder.org/videos/the-joy-of-stats/