# Pitfalls in data

## and how to avoid them

Maarten Lambrechts

# Pitfalls in

# metadata

# statistics

# visualisation

# PITFALLS

# Metadata

# "... in Brussels, nearly 62 percent is of foreign origin"

# Metadata = data about the data

## Collected by whom?

## Collected how?

## Collected why?

## Collected when?

## Definitions?

# Metadata

## Determine validity of conclusions

## Describe limitations on the use of the data

## Determine comparability

# Without correct units numbers are meaningless

# PITFALLS

# Statistics

# Percentages & percentage points

# "2.1% of mask wearers tested positive for COVID-19, versus 1.8% of non-mask-wearers. The difference is only 0.3%."

# This is an difference of 0.3 percentage points

# Or:

# (2.1 - 1.8)/2.1 = 14% decrease in positive tests

# % - % = percentage point

# (new - old)/old = % change

# That's not normal

# Top 5 EU electricity consumers

Country |
---|

1. Germany |

2. France |

3. UK |

4. Italy |

5. Spain |

Electricity consumption (Gwh) |
---|

517.377 |

442.372 |

303.903 |

286.027 |

232.515 |

# Congrats: a population ranking!

# Please divide by the number of people

# Top 5 EU electricity consumers

Country |
---|

1. Iceland |

2. Norway |

3. Finland |

4. Sweden |

5. Luxembourg |

Elektricity consumption (Mwh/cap) |
---|

49,7 |

21,5 |

14,7 |

12,6 |

10,6 |

# Especially relevant for maps

# Make numbers comparable

# (=normalising):

# per capita, per surface area, ...

# Mean vs median

# How many soulmates do you think a person can have?

# The median?

## Rank the data: the median is the middle value

# The median is less sensitive to outliers. Use it!

# Distributions

## Summary statistics rarely describe somebody's lived experience and **never** ring true for *the whole population*

# Data are much more than averages

# Use distributions whenever you can

# Correlation vs causality

# Correlation. Is. Not. Causation.

# Confidence

# intervals

# "The margin of error is 3,2 percent."

# Uncertainty is inherent to survey results. Keep the margins of error in mind

# Big & small chances

## People who ate 76 grams of red and processed meat per day had a 20% higher chance of developing colorectal cancer compared to others, who ate about 21 grams a day.

## Of 10.000 people in the study who ate 21 grams of red or processed meat each day, 40 developed colorectal cancer. Among those who ate 76 gram per day, 48 did so.

## 21 grams => 40/10.000 = 0.4%

## 76 grams => 48/10.000 = 0.48%

## +20%, or +0.08 percentage point

# +20% of a small chance is still a small chance

## The researchers said B.1.1.7 led to 227 deaths in a sample of 54,906 patients. That compares with 141 deaths in roughly the same number of patients who were infected with other strains.

## Earlier strains: 141/54906 = 0,26%

## UK strain: 227/54906 = 0,41%

## But still 86 more deaths

# But relatively small differences can be meaningful

# Apples & oranges

# Compare

# regions to regions

# countries to countries

# apples to apples

# oranges to oranges

# Exponential growth

# Exponential

# ≠

# skyrocketing

## Percent & percentage points

## That's not normal

## Mean vs median

## Distributions

## Correlation vs causality

## Confidence intervals

## Big & small chances

## Apples and oranges

## Exponential growth

# PITFALLS

# Visualisation

# Keep the pies for dessert

# Don't cut bars

# Respect proportions

# Don't cut time axes

# Compare apples to apples

# Scale circles by surface area

# Don't do 3D

# Double the axes,

# double the mischief

# Every map is a lie

## Keep the pies for dessert

## Don't cut bars

## Respect proportions

## Don't cut time axes

## Compare apples to apples

## Scale circles op by surface area

## Don't do 3D

## Avoid double axes

## Every map is a lie

## Thanks!

## slides.com/maartenzam/pitfalls-mediahuis

#### Pitfalls in data

By maartenzam