‘How to lose your fear of Data’

Through work, this invitation recently came my way:How to lose your fear of data - HIS - Dr Brian Robson - April 2018As part of this Health & Social Care Digital Leaders Summit the expert panels and workshops will demonstrate “how to lose your fear of data”.

I have previously offered my concerns about the following dictat which is widely shared by “improvement scientists”:without dataThe dictionary definition of ‘data’ is:data definitionIt is however vital to appreciate that science is based on method and observation, which is then recorded in words, before finally being converted into numbers (data). At each stage there is a representational loss of actual experience. It is scientifically and philosophically impossible for data to fully represent reality.

Having been recently engaged in the Scottish Government’s Draft Suicide Prevention Action Plan, Mrs Chrys Muirhead offered this pertinent response“I am concerned that data analysis may be impersonal and exclusive, missing out stories about suicide”.

Mary Midgley, now aged 98, has been described as “the most frightening philosopher in the country”. She argues against reductionism, or the attempt to impose any one approach to understanding the world. She suggests that there are “many maps, many windows,” arguing that “we need scientific pluralism—the recognition that there are many independent forms and sources of knowledge—rather than reductivism, the conviction that one fundamental form underlies them all and settles everything.” 

Midgley does not consider science a bad way of knowing the real world. But does argue that it is only one among many, and one which must be kept “firmly in its place.”

This quote comes form the novel “We are all completely beside ourselves” by K J Fowler:

We are all completely beside ourselves (4)

NHS Scotland has been leading on data collection and yesterday, 11 April 2018, another educational event took place with the support of a number of partners. The event was titled Realistic Medicine, Data and Me and was chaired by the Medical Director of Healthcare Improvement Scotland, and IHI Fellow, Dr Brian Robson. One of the Panelists was Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, whose initiative ‘Realistic Medicine’ has always had my full support.

I was not able to attend yesterday’s event, but I do recall Dr Calderwood giving the following comment about Data collection and opportunity costs to the Scottish Parliament on the 9th January 2018:

“We must also be careful about proportion and a balance the burden of data collection on actual results. I was part of a big maternity audit in which I  calculated how much time each keystroke took. I  worked out that we could have employed 50 more midwives a year based on the time that was being taken to record data for the whole country. I am not sure that we consider such issues very well. We keep asking people to collect more data, but data collection must be proportionate to how the improvement that collection will create.”


6 Replies to “‘How to lose your fear of Data’”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.