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Governing-by-the numbers – Résumé after one and a half years

Walter Radermacher (2021)

Statistical Journal of the IAOS, 37(2), pp. 701–711.

Extract: “1.Introduction (Along came COVID1) 
At the end of 2019, when the contribution “Governing-by-the-numbers/Statistical governance” [1] was intended to initiate a reflection and discussion on the www.officialstatistics.com discussion platform on the future of official statistics in a digital and globalised society, it could not yet be foreseen how much the world would change in 2020. Eighteen months later, the COVID pandemic has taught us painfully how urgent the availability of reliable statistical information is. […] This reduction to physical objects and their ‘measurement’ does not, of course, meet the typical target of observation in (official) statistics, as Theodore Porter [31], Heinz Grohmann [32] or Alain Desrosières [33] have clearly pointed out in their works. Imagine, for example, approaching the well-known indicators of statistics, such as GDP or the Consumer Price Index, with such an inadequate scientific toolkit. Desrosières’ work is closely linked to the scientific movement of the so-called “economics of convention” (in French ‘économie des conventions’) [34]. Here, the name of this movement already contains the core of the message that statistics (at least in the field of social or economic phenomena) has to deal with facts that cannot be measured directly, such as a tree, but which first require a qualitative description (or as Grohmann put it “theoretisches Konstrukt”) and subsequently its translation into a corresponding statistical concept.” (p. 701/706)

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