Enhancing Application of Numerical Literacy and Data in Public Policy Applications in India

Session Report

Data is an indispensable tool that is essential for decision making processes therefore this course is essential for anyone who wants to develop the skills and knowledge needed to manage data effectively and use it to inform decision-making. Emphasising on the need to create awareness on data  Generation Alpha Data Center (GenAlphaDC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, organized A Two-Month Immersive Online Hands-On Certificate Training Course on Data, Monitoring and Evaluation spanning over eight consecutive Saturdays from June 3,2023 to July 22 ,2023. Along with this, datasets for hands-on learning were also provided for data analysis and learning.

Participants were required to make a submission for evaluation at the end of the course for better understanding throughout the course. The course consisted of hands-on data learning sessions and various expert sessions. The course especially catered to data and policy enthusiasts – including students, professionals, researchers, and other individuals looking for a comprehensive foundation for data-based policy research. 

About the Data, Monitoring and Evaluation program

The training program was conducted by an expert group of academicians which included 

  1. Prof Nilanjan Banik, Professor and Program Director (BA, Economics and Finance) at Mahindra University, Hyderabad
  2. Prof Mukul AsherFormer Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of SingaporeVisiting Distinguished Professor at IMPRI
  3. Dr Soumyadip Chattopadhyay, Associate Professor, Economics, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan; Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI.

Other notable experts include 

  1. Dr Devender Singh, Global Studies Programme, University of Freiburg, Germany; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI
  2. Prof Gummadi Sridevi,Professor, School of Economics, University of Hyderabad; Visiting Professor, IMPRI 
  3. Dr Amar Jesani,Independent Researcher and Teacher (Bioethics and Public Health); Editor, Indian Journal of Medical Ethics 
  4. Dr Radhika Pandey,Senior Fellow, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), New Delhi 
  5. Prof Vibhuti Patel,Visiting Distinguished Professor, IMPRI
  6. Dr Ismail Haque, Fellow, ICRIER and Visiting Fellow, at  IMPRI
  7. Mr V. Ramakrishnan,Managing Director, Organisation Development, Singapore
  8. Prof VinaVaswani,Director, Centre for Ethics, and Professor, Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Yenepoya (Deemed to be) University, Mangalore
  9. Mr Rakesh Pandey, ​Assistant Policy Researcher, Doctoral Scholar, Pardee RAND Graduate School, RAND Corporation, USA 
  10. Prof Nalin Bharti, Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Patna; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI.

The Conveners for the course were Dr Simi MehtaCEO & Editorial Director, IMPRI and Dr Arjun Kumar, Director at IMPRI.

The session was opened by Prof Mukul Asher, Former Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of SingaporeVisiting Distinguished Professor at IMPRI and congratulated IMPRI Team for organizing an informative course as data is the new oil and its essence needs to be understood by researchers, faculty members, policy makers and concerned authorities.

As part of the first session, he concentrated on Descriptive Statistics and Public Policy in order to lay a strong foundation for the participants for further sessions in the program. He stressed on the importance of descriptive statistics and how its use is being abused, as a result, it is necessary to be a keen observer and know the technique of using descriptive statistics. He took the help of various references for description such as Lessons from Darrel Huff’s1954 Book -How to Lie with Statistics and he further correlated Descriptive Statistics with examples. 

He started with the note from C.R. Rao who received International Prize in Statistics in 2023 that is equivalent to Nobel Peace Prize for his 75 Years of monumental work in the field of statistics that revolutionized statistical thinking. Rao’s paper published in 1945 in the Bulletin of the Calcutta Mathematical Society, he demonstrated three fundamental results that paved way for modern field of statistics and provided statistical tools that are used heavily in science today.

He explained the importance of Cramer-Rao lower bound in diverse fields as radiography, risk analysis, and quantum physics. Moving further he explained good characteristics of data that are it is one time investment as once produced marginal cost of additional person gets very low but on the other hand have high average cost due to which socio-economic and other data are produced by government so that it can be used by everyone and good and timely data is critical. 

Scientific Method of data collection was also described by him and he threw light on literacy as being consumers of data we should check the accuracy and validity of the data in order to produce best results. Various techniques of data literacy were knowledge regarding graphs, data sources, datasets etc.

Lesson’s from the Huff’s book were discussed in detail. First lesson was drawing correlations with skepticism, second was Relationships don’t last Forever, third was Always Look on the Axes on the Chart, fourth lesson that was concluded was Small Samples Produce Shocking Statistics, fifth lesson was to Look at All the Numbers that Describe Dataset ,  sixth was to Check which Average is being Used, seventh was Comparisons should be used to a Common baseline , eight was look for a Bias in a Sample, ninth and the most important lesson was to be Wary of Big Names on Studies and Scrutinize Authority , tenth and the last one was Not to Place too Much Faith on in any One Statistic.

At last, he concluded the entire session in two points that were –

  1. If we rely on only one number then that will overfit the circumstances that produced it 
  2. Statistics and Data are never purely objective.

He further provided the brief summary of what all was covered in the session along with supporting examples of various economist along with their research samples. At the end it was an interactive session as various questions were asked by the participants that raised the bar of the discussion.

Acknowledgement: Bhanvi is Visiting Researcher, IMPRI.

Read more event reports of IMPRI here

A Practitioner’s Experience of Data, Monitoring & Evaluation

Dummy Variables



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