However, if your intention is to motivate people to take action then it does not matter whether your interpretation of the data is correct so long as people believe it.
A number of my posts over the six months have dealt with the interpretation of data. Why do I think it is so important to interpret data correctly?
- Incorrect data interpretation allows critics to discount your arguments.
- Incorrect data interpretation allows critics to re-focus the discussion as an argument about what the data mean.
- Incorrect data interpretation leaves you running the risk that scarce resources are directed at solving non-existent problems while leaving actual problems unaddressed.
- The examples of poor data interpretation I have discussed include:
- Making a stronger claim than the data support (Over-interpreted Data 1)
- Failure to distinguish between effect and fluctuation (for example, in appointments statistics, see Myth of Hard Facts)
- Failure to account for confounding variables (Over-interpreted Data 2)
- Failure to rule out alternative hypotheses (Over-interpreted Data 3)
5. I have a pedantic streak.