Presentation on theme: "Measuring Food Insecurity for Policy Guidance and Evaluation Statistics Division - ESS Measuring food security Analysts behaving badly Carlo Cafiero, FAO."— Presentation transcript:
Measuring Food Insecurity for Policy Guidance and Evaluation Statistics Division - ESS Measuring food security Analysts behaving badly Carlo Cafiero, FAO ESS Wednesday October 9 th 2013, FAO Headquarters, Ethiopia Room 18:00 – 19:30 OPEN ISSUES AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
Different views of “measurement” In physics, to measure means to provide rules to associate numbers to phenomena Measuring tools (i.e. “rulers”) can be created relatively easily Precision and reliability can be assessed by experimenting Too narrow for the social sciences In a broader, philosophical sense, to measure is a process towards understanding phenomena Development of the tool and assessment of its reliability cannot be separated from the establishment of the validity of the concept
A tension between data and concepts Proceeding from data to concepts… Take stock of existing data -> Interpret them -> Synthesize -> Communicate (examples: GHI, IPC) … or from concepts to data Conceptualize -> Analyze complexity -> Focus -> Define the measurement tool -> Collect data (example: US – HFSSM scale)
Obviously, the process is circular Data Synthesis, Filtering, Understanding Concept Thinking, Analysis, Definitions Definition of the metrics use of the measures for different purposes (monitoring, targeting, etc.)
The complementary roles of statistics and communication Statistics particularly relevant when observation is partial, affected by noise Communication particularly delicate when phenomena are complex and evolving over time
The role of theory… Theory can be used to fill the data gap… …but you need a “good” theory, and here comes a conundrum: you need data to validate the theory that you need to fill data gaps… If theory is not sufficiently validated, using it may alter the results of measurement, by contributing to spreading myths Example: the Law of One Price in commodity markets and the food price crisis of 2007/08
… and of methods Respect fundamental principles of logical inference Observed correlation does not imply causality A certain time sequence does not imply causality The possibility of concomitant, alternative causes should always be explicitly considered and, if possible, ruled out before drawing conclusions When data are noisy (and data are always noisy), statistical inference is the only way to go
Analysts behaving badly Ad hoc interpretations of terms and concepts underlying indicators Rhetoric of science used to support claims Miscommunicating the meaning and/or hiding the (lack of) precision of estimates “There are 336,997 persons living in extreme poverty in country X”
There is too much at stake … Halting or misdirecting research efforts International Symposium 2003/International Symposium 2012: Ten years discussing methods, limited attention to improving data quality. Encouraging possibly wrong policies Ban exports? Produce vegetables in Siberia? Blame the speculator?
… and we are under continuing pressure The anxiety of measuring “something”, to provide some number Political pressure Over-interpretation/Risk of misdirection The unresolved issue of the quality of the data Remember, models do not do miracles: garbage in, garbage out
Our discussion today Who needs food security measures, and why? How to respond to the demand, by balancing rigor and «usability»? What is FAO Statistics offering?