Research, evaluation, analysis

Accuracy is not Enough

Data are not necessarily information. They are informative only to the extent that they reduce uncertainty. If you want to know what programs are on television tonight, knowing yesterday's television schedule will not help you. Yesterday's schedule is full of data, but the data are no longer informative.

In psychometric terms, informative data are those which are valid which predict events of interest to you. To be valid data must be accurate; in fact, the validity of information is limited by its accuracy. Of course, inaccurate data cannot be valid, and the maximum possible validity of accurate data is equal to the square root of its reliability coefficient.

The minimum validity of accurate data, however, is always zero. Sometimes data are not valid simply because they are distributed in a way ill-suited to the statistics which are used to assess validity; often the distribution can be modified through a mathematical transformation and validity restored. Sometimes the data are simply irrelevant or poorly defined. At any rate, a database should be checked regularly to ensure not only accuracy but also relevance and utility.

Accuracy is not Enough © 2001, John FitzGerald
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