Sign In
Information about science based innovations, solid facts to support decision-making, performance and business development for VTT’s partners, customers and anyone interested in high technology and its applications.
A magazine on science, technology and business

​​

Before information gets lost in numbers

Matti Apunen | 29.9.2015

​"Finland lacks the tradition of evaluating active labour market policies with scientific methods, which leads to a dispersed view of the performance of measures.

In Germany for example, the Hartz reforms aimed to make the labour market policy more effective by also introducing an obligation to evaluate policy effectiveness by scientific methods. The rationale was that the evaluations would indicate how the measures could be developed further and help allocate resources to effective measures.”

This quote is from a recent publication by the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (Etla), Muistioita tulevalle hallitukselle (“Notes to the new government”) written by Chief Research Scientist Antti Kauhanen. It gives pause for thought.

It is almost sacrilege to suggest that decision-making in Finland, a country that considers itself extremely rational, is not always based on research data. Does this mean that we are directing significant amounts of funds to policy measures but rely on guesswork, assurances or beliefs in order to evaluate their effectiveness?

There is no shortage of numerical data, mind you. Various interest and lobby groups, research institutions, citizen’s movements and authorities generate vast amounts of materials, all of which they naturally present as facts. The problem is that all this information is far from uniform. While the sources do not always reveal how they have processed the data, I hope it is questioned at least every now and then.

It seems that it is not the lack of information that is problematical for politicians, but rather evaluating whether the information is reliable. Who are they to believe?

I posed this question to Mikael Jungner, a policy maker and outgoing Member of Parliament whose response was razor-sharp.

According to Jungner, evidence can be used to reinforce a perception one has already formed. In this case, it is more than likely that the preconception is reinforced by carefully selected facts. However, if we use the evidence so as to find shortcomings in our own argumentation, it is at least theoretically possible that we are close to an optimal solution.

I agree. First and foremost, good evidence-based decision-making involves the strength calculation of ideas.

Good public decision-making has three objectives. Firstly, it needs to enforce the citizen’s trust in governing bodies. This, in turn, requires transparency in terms of both decision-making and supporting materials. Lastly, decision-making should focus on results rather than on the purity of processes. 

To be able to focus on the results, we have to be sure – or at least believe – that the target-setting is clear and that the implementation of set targets will be measured.

The decision-making machinery that includes politicians, authorities, Parliament, ministries, councils and municipalities -  should be a professional buyer at the research data market, not just a producer of its own truths. The quality of the collected data and arguments should be measured during the preparatory work. 

No finding should be excluded just because of its source.

This is what is called a motivational trap, the greatest stumbling block in political discussion. For example, I may have a motive to participate in the discussion about security policy because I am in favour of Finland’s membership in NATO, but I may also have a good point to make. My attitude towards the NATO membership does not automatically invalidate my arguments about security policy.

However, we should not confuse the right to personal opinions with the right to personal facts. Decision-making becomes dispersed if it is not based on shared facts.

Discussion in the media tends to heat up, and scientific facts and lifestyle beliefs are presented side-by-side with great abandon. People with university degrees have a great belief in the health benefits of diluted birch ash – to each his own, right? However, even if an individual firmly believes that a glass of a homoeopathic drink is of benefit to them, a decision-maker must require evidence, verification and testing for the sake of others.

Matti Apunen
Director
Finnish Business and Policy Forum, EVA

 

 

VTT Impulsehttps://www.vttresearch.com/ImpulseVTT Impulse
Low carbon energyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Low-carbon-energy.aspxLow carbon energy
Business developmenthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Business-development.aspxBusiness development
Health and wellbeinghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Health-and-wellbeing.aspxHealth and wellbeing
Smart industryhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Smart-industry.aspxSmart industry
Cyber security modelled on the vaccination programmehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Cyber-security-modelled-on-the-vaccination-programme.aspxCyber security modelled on the vaccination programme
Demand for energy storage is growing rapidlyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Demand-for-energy-storage-is-growing-rapidly.aspxDemand for energy storage is growing rapidly
Designers needed in printed technologyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Designers-needed-in-printed-technology.aspxDesigners needed in printed technology
Pekka Soini’s Business Finland is an "internationalisation channel" for companieshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Pekka-Soini’s-Business-Finland-is-an-internationalisation-channel-for-companies.aspxPekka Soini’s Business Finland is an "internationalisation channel" for companies
Plasma treatment spurs material developmenthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Plasma-treatment-spurs-material-development.aspxPlasma treatment spurs material development
Challenges conceal opportunitieshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Challenges-conceal-opportunities.aspxChallenges conceal opportunities
Comfy but energy efficient homeshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Comfy-but-energy-efficient-homes.aspxComfy but energy efficient homes
It will soon be possible to monitor your body’s fluid balance with a perspiration meterhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/It-will-soon-be-possible-to-monitor-your-body’s-fluid-balance-with-a-perspiration-meter.aspxIt will soon be possible to monitor your body’s fluid balance with a perspiration meter
VTT Impulsehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/MainPage.aspxVTT Impulse
There is no better innovation model in the worldhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/There-is-no-better-innovation-model-in-the-world.aspxThere is no better innovation model in the world
The rise of robotic carshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-rise-of-robotic-cars.aspxThe rise of robotic cars
Towards carbon-neutral materialshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Towards-carbon-neutral-materials.aspxTowards carbon-neutral materials
Towards patient-centred, personalised healthcarehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Towards-patient-centred-personalised-healthcare.aspxTowards patient-centred, personalised healthcare
Traceable data will accelerate the circulation of materialshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Traceable-data-will-accelerate-the-circulation-of-materials.aspxTraceable data will accelerate the circulation of materials
Using nuclear power to mitigate climate changehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Using-nuclear-power-to-mitigate-climate-change.aspxUsing nuclear power to mitigate climate change
What and how will people eat in the future?https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/What-and-how-will-people-eat-in-the-future.aspxWhat and how will people eat in the future?
World in 2030 - answers to tomorrow’s questionshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/World-in-2030-answers-to-tomorrows-questions.aspxWorld in 2030 - answers to tomorrow’s questions
Are environmental claims believable?https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Are-environmental-claims-believable.aspxAre environmental claims believable?
At the digital forefront of mininghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/At-the-digital-forefront-of-mining.aspxAt the digital forefront of mining
Automation gives packages wingshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Automation-gives-packages-wings.aspxAutomation gives packages wings
Autonomous systems are proliferating rapidly in industryhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Autonomous-systems-are-proliferating-rapidly-in-industry.aspxAutonomous systems are proliferating rapidly in industry
Before information gets lost in numbershttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Before-information-gets-lost-in-numbers.aspxBefore information gets lost in numbers
Bio-based carbon dioxide to be recycled in Nokiahttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Bio-based-carbon-dioxide-to-be-recycled-in-Nokia.aspxBio-based carbon dioxide to be recycled in Nokia
How to become a leading country in flexible energy production systemshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/How-to-become-a-leading-country-in-flexible-energy-production-systems.aspxHow to become a leading country in flexible energy production systems
Impulse 2/2017https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-2-2017.aspxImpulse 2/2017
Industrial cyber security improves through cooperationhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Industrial-cyber-security-improves-through-cooperation.aspxIndustrial cyber security improves through cooperation
Technology enables good urban livinghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Technology-enables-good-urban-living.aspxTechnology enables good urban living
The creative force of change managementhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-creative-force-of-change-management.aspxThe creative force of change management
A better world based on positive energyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/A-better-world-based-on-positive-energy.aspxA better world based on positive energy
Advancing cyber security on several frontshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Advancing-cyber-security-on-several-fronts.aspxAdvancing cyber security on several fronts
A future without wastewater?https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/A-future-without-wastewater.aspxA future without wastewater?
A machine is more humanehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/A-machine-is-more-humane.aspxA machine is more humane
Tua Huomo: Energy production and use – smart choices have an impacthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Energy-production-and-use–smart-choices-an-impact.aspxTua Huomo: Energy production and use – smart choices have an impact
Energy solutions and the 2050 goalshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Energy-solutions-and-the-2050-goals.aspxEnergy solutions and the 2050 goals
Finland on its way towards low-carbon year 2050https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Finland-on-its-way-towards-low-carbon-year-2050.aspxFinland on its way towards low-carbon year 2050
From ideas to major innovationshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/From-drawing-board-to-major-innovation.aspxFrom ideas to major innovations
Renewing industrial practices creates a new competitive edgehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Renewing-industrial-practices-creates-a-new-competitive-edge.aspxRenewing industrial practices creates a new competitive edge
Return on investmentshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Return-on-investments.aspxReturn on investments
Road safety to a new level using 5Ghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Road-safety-to-a-new-level-using-5G.aspxRoad safety to a new level using 5G
Same old routine for the next 100 yearshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Same-old-routine-for-the-next-100-years.aspxSame old routine for the next 100 years
Senior Scientist Jukka Hemila, VTT: From technology hype to customer understandinghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Senior-Scientist-Jukka-Hemila-VTT-From-technology-hype-to-customer-understanding.aspxSenior Scientist Jukka Hemila, VTT: From technology hype to customer understanding
Smart 5G light pole provides safety for residents of the smart cityhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Smart-5G-light-pole-provides-safety-for-residents-of-the-smart-city.aspxSmart 5G light pole provides safety for residents of the smart city
Resource-efficient future citieshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Resource-efficient-future-cities.aspxResource-efficient future cities
Smarter products and modules – produced more efficientlyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Smarter-products-and-modules-–-produced-more-efficiently.aspxSmarter products and modules – produced more efficiently
How to fix the plastics economy by 2030https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/How-to-fix-the-plastics-economy-by-2030.aspxHow to fix the plastics economy by 2030