1500.0 - A guide for using statistics for evidence based policy, 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/10/2010  First Issue
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Contents >> Using statistics for making evidence based decisions


The availability of statistical information does not automatically lead to good decision making. In order to use statistics to make well informed decisions, it is necessary to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to be able to access, understand, analyse and communicate statistical information. These skills provide the basis for understanding the complex social, economic and environmental dimensions of an issue and transforming data into usable information and evidence based policy decisions.

In effect, a level of statistical literacy is required in order to understand and interpret data correctly. Statistical literacy can be measured by the following criteria, all of which are vital for the informed use of statistics.

Data awareness

    • know what data is appropriate for your needs

    • know what types of data are available

    • access appropriate data sets – ensure the data available are ‘fit for purpose’

    • assess the quality of available data.

The ability to understand statistical concepts

    • understand simple and more complex statistical terminology

    • apply basic and more complex statistical concepts

    • understand and be able to interpret graphical representations of data.

The ability to analyse, interpret and evaluate statistical information

    • analyse the limitations of data sources

    • identify the issues or questions you require information about, specify objectives and formulate expectations

    • determine appropriate analytical techniques and undertake data analysis

    • assess the results of analysis against the objectives and expectations

    • review the objectives, recommence data analysis cycle as appropriate.

The ability to communicate statistical information and understandings

    • using tables and graphs to present findings

    • accurately and effectively write about the data.

For a more detailed explanation of what it means to be statistically literate, see ‘Why Statistics Matter?’ If you are interested in developing your statistical literacy skills, there are a range of resources and materials available on the Understanding Statistics pages of the ABS website www.abs.gov.au/understandingstatistics.

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