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Publication Name: Understanding Uncertainty

Brief description: The site that tries to make sense of chance, risk, luck, uncertainty and probability.

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Joined: August 20th, 2011


Understanding Uncertainty wrote a new blog post titled Exploring the language of chance in a sensitive context

What words are appropriate when describing the unavoidable unpredictability of real life – what we might casually call ‘chance’? This became a vital question in a recent project to build a website explaining survival outcomes in children’s heart surgery: this was a fine collaboration between CORU at UCL, Sense about Science, King's College London Psychology, and the Children's Heart Federation. Put rather coldly, the PRAIS (Partial Risk Adjustment in Surgery) risk-adjustment system uses information on each case to assess an individual’s probability of survival, and these probabilities are...
(1113 days ago)

Understanding Uncertainty wrote a new blog post titled The risks of Big Data – or why I am not worried about brain tumours.

In a careful study published last week, Socioeconomic position and the risk of brain tumour: a Swedish national population-based cohort study, the authors examined the association between the socio-economic status of men and women in Sweden with diagnosis of brain tumours over 18 years. One of the main findings is shown below. Part of a table showing a significantly increased incidence of gliomas in men with more education: the final column shows the relative risks adjusted for marital status and income. The press release was moderately over-enthusiastic. It correctly said that no causal...
(1152 days ago)

Understanding Uncertainty wrote a new blog post titled The risks of trying to be funny

I’ve had a lot of publicity over the last few days, but none of it was welcome. It arose from the story below from the Daily Telegraph of June 6 with the headline “Britons are having less sex, and Game of Thrones could be to blame, says Cambridge professor” I really did say all this. At a talk for the general public at the Hay Festival plugging Sex by Numbers, I was talking about the decline in sexual activity over the last 20 years identified by the NATSAL survey, and said that the press was obsessed with the reasons for this. As a statistician, I couldn’t say why this decline had...
(1173 days ago)


Welcome to the site that tries to make sense of chance, risk, luck, uncertainty and probability. Mathematics won't tell us what to do, but we think that understanding the numbers can help us deal with our own uncertainty and allow us to look critically at stories in the media.

This site is produced by the Winton programme for the public understanding of risk based in the Statistical Laboratory in the University of Cambridge. The aim is to help improve the way that uncertainty and risk are discussed in society, and show how probability and statistics can be both useful and entertaining! However we also acknowledge that uncertainty is not just a matter of working out numerical chances, and aim for an appropriate balance between qualitative and quantitative insights.

The current team comprises David Spiegelhalter, Mike Pearson, Owen Smith, Arciris Garay-Arevalo and Ian Short, with contributions from Hauke Riesch, Owen Walker, Madeleine Cule and Hayley Jones . However we are always looking for people who would like to contribute material to this site, and you will get proper acknowledgement.