Despite the huge amount of data we collect and the reliance that we have on it for almost everything we do, when it is discussed in public it is often either misinterpreted, misrepresented, or outright ignored.
Nothing has shown this more than climate change, where data has shown irrefutably that it exists, but despite this there are still several members of the senate who deny it exists or that it is caused by human influence.
With the new administration here, there has been some considerable, and understandable, fear about how the huge amount of data on the subject may be treated. This has even caused several leading US climate scientists to copy and move decades of climate data to different countries in order to protect it from manipulation in the US.
What we are seeing is the same data being presented in different ways to prove polar opposite points, essentially undermining both the right and wrong answers. The biggest impact this has is on institutional trust, where the Edelman Trust Barometer has shown that in two thirds of all countries surveyed, less than 50% trusted businesses, media, government, and NGOs.
Even more shocking was the 71% who said that government officials are not at all or somewhat credible, and the 63% who said the same for CEOs. At the same time, 60% of those questioned trusted ‘a person like yourself’ as much as a technical expert or academic.
This essentially means that if a world renowned economist says to an individual that a move by a government will damage their economy and somebody with no qualifications who shares similar views to the individual says it won’t, they put the same weight on both conclusions.
This is a dangerous place to be and data is the only defense against it. It is our job as those responsible for collecting and communicating the data to make sure we are doing it clearly and with as little wiggle room for bias as possible, otherwise this trend is only likely to continue.