Learning from (other people’s) failures

DohWe talk a lot about failing here on this blog, possibly because we do it a lot. As such, it’s always good to see other people fail too, and also pick themselves up from it.

Today’s example is the apparent failure of British psephologists/pollsters to predict the outcome of the general election last week. Pretty much every one was in agreement that a hung Parliament beckoned, with attendant coalition negotiations.

Instead, the Conservatives pulled out a clear majority. Cue much pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth.

The academics and pollsters involved have already produced a great range of post-mortems, before anything official kicks off. Below are some of the best bits of these dissections.

Fivethirtyeight 

YouGov 

Guardian 

Number Cruncher Politics

Stephen Fisher (Elections etc) 

 As an exercise with students about how academic research progresses, this offers an excellent opportunity to explore the testing of models against real-world data and the way in which lessons are learnt and internalised.

Too often, we present ‘research’ as simply ‘correct’, so showing a bit of humility (as these people have done) is a helpful corrective.

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