SAGE Journal Articles
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Research That Matters: Campbell, Colin and Jonathan Horowitz. 2016. "Does College Influence Sociopolitical Attitudes?" Sociology of Education 89(1):40-58.
Abstract: This paper aims to improve public understanding of crime statistics. It is based on the experience of the author as Chief Statistician at the Home Office. It takes a historical perspective, looking back over the last 60 years and forward for a further generation. It takes a technological perspective as crime is constantly changing with the development of new technologies, goods and services. It also takes a crime prevention perspective as some recent reductions in crime have followed improvements in crime prevention. The paper concludes that the recent published falls in crime statistics are real but that the current measures are inadequate to cope with a changing trend in criminal activity, away from ‘conventional’ crimes such as robbery, theft and burglary, towards a greater concentration on Internet crime, frauds of all kinds and the various kinds of corruption associated with the global economy and the growth in electronic commerce.
Abstract: How should statisticians interact with journalists? The author, an academic statistician, has worked with journalists in several ways over the years. The article explores the many-sided relationship between scientists, journalists and the public, from the point of view of the statisticians involved. One pessimistic view of the role of numbers in news is that they are there largely for rhetorical reasons, to increase the credibility and authority of a story. The author would not subscribe to that view, but it does point to a potential need to educate readers as well as journalists in dealing with numbers, and the article briefly discusses a checklist intended to help the consumers of media stories about risks to choose what to ignore. The article concludes by presenting some reasons for being optimistic about the position of statistics in journalism.
Journal Article 3: Waidzunas, T. (2012). Young, gay, and suicidal: Dynamic nominalism and the process of defining a social problem with statistics. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 37(2), 199–225.
Abstract: Since 1989, widely circulating statistics on gay teen suicide in the United States have acted as catalysts for institutional reforms, scientific research, and the creation of an identity category “gay youth.” While one figure has been replicated scientifically, these numbers originated not from a scientific research study but as risk estimates developed by a social worker and published in a government document. Many people within the public took up these original numbers, attributing their author the status of scientific researcher. In effect, the numbers became “black boxed,” often traveling without citation. Drawing on Ian Hacking’s “dynamic nominalist” perspective, this article utilizes interviews with the author of these statistics and other key claimants, along with textual analysis, to trace the origins, uptake, and effects of these figures. While making vital policy contributions, the numbers have led to some ironic consequences including the fostering of gay youth identification with suicide as a potential correlate of their identity and the potential antigay redeployment of decontextualized numbers. They have also led to a reaction in the form of “resilience” narratives.