Collaboration and coincidence

by Alex Hulkes

History has been described as ‘just one damn thing after another’. Data on the other hand is often ‘lots of damn things all at the same time’. This blog highlights not one but two new damn things appearing on the ESRC website at the same time, each containing many sub-damn things all of which happened at the same time, or nearly so. Continue reading

Explaining the facts

by Tom Chivers

Recently, I was lucky enough to win the ‘Explaining the facts’ category in the Royal Statistical Society’s Statistical Excellence in Journalism awards. In my brief acceptance speech, I used a quote I half-remembered. I don’t know who said it, but it goes something like this: if you want to fool people, the easiest way to do it is to never teach them what a denominator is. As a journalist, one who’s interested in science and facts and numbers, I think it is something to remember at all times. Continue reading

‘Better informed?’ the impact of the Brexit debate on voters’ attitudes towards the EU

by John Curtice and Sarah Tipping

Do voters know what they are doing? This is a question that is often asked about referendums, not least by those who doubt voters’ ability to grapple with major issues of policy.

Since the EU referendum it has, perhaps, been regarded as a particularly pressing question by some on the Remain side. For example, the charge that many Leave voters were ill-versed in the economic consequences of leaving the EU not be explicit in analysis that has suggested that Leave voting areas were more likely to suffer economically from Brexit, but it is certainly implied. Continue reading

Sugary solution?

by Kate Smith

Since 6 April, the UK’s sugar tax has seen shoppers asked to pay 18p or 24p more per litre of soft drink bought, depending on how much sugar the drink contains. In Scotland, from May, alcohol is now not allowed to be sold for less than 50p per unit, with Wales also looking at similar measures.

The rationale for these price policies is that sugar and alcohol are associated with problems that impose a substantial cost on society. For example, problem drinking can lead to anti-social behaviour, crime, pressure on A&Es and increased liver disease. Excessive sugar consumption is linked to rising obesity rates, diabetes and heart disease. Continue reading

Power over social media platforms

by Martin Moore

We are at a peculiar moment when governments – democratic and authoritarian alike –  are itching to regulate and legislate the major tech platforms. In the UK in April, Jeremy Hunt gave an ultimatum to social media to better protect children or face new laws.

His threat followed similar ones by Matt Hancock, Theresa May, and before her  David Cameron. And, in the same month as Hunt’s ultimatum, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was hauled in front of Congress for two days of questioning. “Congress is good at two things” Republican Senator Billy Long said then, “doing nothing, and overreacting. So far, we’ve done nothing on Facebook… [now] We’re getting ready to overreact.” Continue reading