Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews The Bigger Picture

Stand up for straight statistics

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 06 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2163
  1. Mary E Black, public health physician, Belgrade, Serbia
  1. drmaryblack{at}

A state epidemiologist from Uzbekistan stood up to speak to a working group on UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey in 2000. “I am proud that the response rate for our national household survey was 100%.” There was a stunned silence in the room, and then we quietly went to work explaining to her why (a) this was unlikely, (b) this discredited the entire survey, and (c) it was okay to tell the truth.

Don’t get me wrong: fiddling the figures is found in all countries. When revealing a more realistic number of …

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