Questioning the Numbers is a newsletter that aims to explain data science concepts in a way that equips readers to critically evaluate the statistical claims that are made in public policy contexts. We do this by taking real-world examples of statistical reports that have been presented to governmental bodies, assessing their reliability, and explaining the outcome of our analysis using non-specialist terminology. We are based in the Region of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, so our case studies will primarily come from municipal governments in the Region. However, it is our hope that readers from any city will be able to take the underlying concepts that we explain and apply them in their own cities. For the technically-minded, we are also sharing the R code that we used to perform the analysis, so that it can be replicated and extended to other municipalities.
Craig Sloss is a data scientist living in Waterloo, Ontario, which is situated in the Haldimand Tract, land which was promised to the Six Nations of the Grand River. He holds a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Waterloo, and is a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries and a Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society. He began working in a data science role in the insurance industry in 2014, and prior to that, worked as a sessional lecturer in mathematics. Late in 2022, he began taking a greater interest in local politics, becoming an activist on a wide range of issues, from sidewalk snow-clearing to police abolition. When he isn't crunching numbers, you can usually find him at a local artistic or cultural event, and he is a big fan of the local music scene.
Fitsum Areguy is a community-based researcher and organizer based on the Haldimand Tract (Kitchener, ON). He is closing out an MA in Community Psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University and works in a knowledge broker role in the field of public health research. Fitsum has extensive experience in knowledge mobilization across nonprofit, health, and public sectors. His expertise extends to peer-review and editing for literary, academic, and journalistic writing. Principles stemming from this diverse work history guide Fitsum’s commitment in this project, which is to ensure data and analyses that inform policy decisions are clearly, critically, and equitably communicated. Fitsum is an advisor and founding member of the African, Caribbean, and Black Network of Waterloo Region, and sits on the board of directors for Multicultural Theatre Space and The AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo & Area. In his free time, he enjoys playing pick-up ball with strangers, listening to dance music, and snacking on shawarma poutine.