Episodes

  • Excess deaths, vaccine harms and lockdowns: how should experts communicate about these complex, politically explosive issues? Michael Blastland quizzes statistical duo David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters on what they’ve learnt while writing a weekly column for the Observer. They explore the importance of context and comparison, the trustworthiness of sharing uncertainty and the power of a good analogy.

    The graphic discussed in the episode - which compares the potential harms and benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine - can be seen here: https://wintoncentre.maths.cam.ac.uk/news/latest-data-mhra-blood-clots-associated-astra-zeneca-covid-19-vaccine/

    David and Anthony’s columns are collected and expanded in their new book Covid By Numbers: https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/446/446585/covid-by-numbers/9780241547731.html

    ***

    Views to share? Get in touch on Twitter @RiskyTalkPod

    Risky Talk is produced by Ilan Goodman for the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge.

  • Politicians and civil servants are hungry for data to help design effective policy. How do we best collect and communicate this evidence - to support good governance and public accountability? Joining David to explore interactive dashboards, misinformation and what’s not in the data are:

    Professor John Aston - former chief scientific adviser to the Home Office, now Harding Professor of Statistics in Public Life

    Dr Laura Gilbert - Chief Data Analyst at No. 10 Downing St

    Professor Diane Coyle CBE - Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy

    ***

    Views to share? Get in touch on Twitter @RiskyTalkPod or email riskytalk@maths.cam.ac.uk

    Risky Talk is produced by Ilan Goodman for the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge.

  • Missing episodes?

    Click here to refresh the feed.

  • Statistics need care and context - but journalists are under pressure to craft engaging stories. Is there a way of doing both?

    Joining David to explore how you turn data into a clear and compelling story are:

    Caelainn Barr - Data Projects Editor at The Guardian

    Tom Chivers - Science Editor at UnHerd and the author of How To Read Numbers: A Guide to Statistics in the News (and Knowing When to Trust Them)

    Paul Milner - Programmes Director at National Numeracy

    Check out Tom’s Statistical Style Guide at howtoreadnumbers.com and sign up to the campaign!

    ***

    Views to share? Get in touch on Twitter @RiskyTalkPod or email riskytalk@maths.cam.ac.uk

    Risky Talk is produced by Ilan Goodman for the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge.

  • Communicating about vaccines has never been higher stakes. How do we do it well?

    Joining David to explore the importance of scientific rigour, listening and building relationships are:

    Professor Heidi Larson - Director of the Vaccine Confidence Project and the author of Stuck: How Vaccine Rumours Start — and Why They Don’t Go Away.

    Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and creator of the Vaccine Knowledge Project.

    ***

    Views to share? Get in touch on Twitter @RiskyTalkPod or email riskytalk@maths.cam.ac.uk

    Risky Talk is produced by Ilan Goodman for the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge.

  • Chemical spills, food scares, terrorist attacks and, of course, pandemics: How can we help manage and reduce the impact of these frightening events with good communication - even while evidence is scant and uncertainty predominates?

    Joining David to share their experience from the frontlines are:

    Professor Brooke Rogers OBE - Behavioural scientist at KCL, and SAGE participant advising the UK government on the coronavirus measures and risks to national security.

    Professor Lord John Krebs - former head of the Food Standards Agency where he dealt with BSE in sheep, dioxins and a series of food scares.

    A full transcript is available here.

    ***

    Views to share? Get in touch on Twitter @RiskyTalkPod or email riskytalk@maths.cam.ac.uk

    Risky Talk is produced by Ilan Goodman for the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge.

  • The public appetite for scientific evidence during the coronavirus pandemic has been voracious. But communicating it well is a fiendish challenge. How can governments give clear advice while also acknowledging uncertainty? How can scientists debate complex evidence while supporting strong interventions? And how can the media scrutinise public health measures without undermining them?

    Joining David to navigate the principles and pitfalls of communicating evidence in a pandemic are:

    Victoria Macdonald, Health and Social Care Editor for C4 News Tracey Brown OBE, Director of Sense About Science Professor Christina Pagel, Operational Research at UCL and member of Independent SAGE

    Access the full transcript here.

    ***

    Views to share? Get in touch on Twitter @RiskyTalkPod or email riskytalk@maths.cam.ac.uk

    Risky Talk is produced by Ilan Goodman for the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge.

  • For leading climate scientist Dr Tamsin Edwards, probabilities and possible futures are part of her everyday work. She joins David to explore uncertainty in different aspects of her life: as a statistician and mathematical modeller, as a communicator about possible climate futures, but also as a cancer patient faced with a life-changing decision.

    Tamsin and David explore

    Why 'all models are wrong but some are useful' How Tamsin engages with climate change skeptics and Extinction Rebellion campaigners Communicating projections for different scenarios - with climate change and Covid-19. What she learnt as a cancer patient 'at the pointy end of probability'

    Connect with Dr Tamsin Edwards on Twitter.

    Views to share? Get in touch via Twitter @RiskyTalkPod or email riskytalk@maths.cam.ac.uk

    Risky Talk is produced by Ilan Goodman for the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge.

    A full transcript of this episode can be found here

  • The unfolding coronavirus pandemic is a story driven by numbers. But how reliable are the numbers we have? What can the data really tell us – and what are the major areas of uncertainty?

    In this special episode, recorded on 1st April, Michael Blastland and Professor David Spiegelhalter help us separate the signal from the noise.

    Why the absolute numbers of confirmed cases and deaths from Covid 19 are dodgy, but the rate at which those numbers change is still a useful indicator. Why Norway vs Sweden is an unfolding natural experiment: neighbouring countries with broadly similar populations, but Norway has gone into strict lockdown and Sweden is being relatively relaxed. There are usually around 600,000 deaths per year in the UK. When we look back, will Covid 19 have caused many excess deaths – or could the figures for 2020 end up looking similar to a bad flu season? How can we think about our personal risk of dying from Covid 19? David sets out how getting Covid 19 multiplies your existing level of risk depending your age: it provides a “pulse” of heightened risk over a short period.

    Full transcript available at:

    https://riskytalk.libsyn.com/transcript-of-coronavirus-understanding-the-numbers

    ***

    Views to share? Get in touch on Twitter @RiskyTalkPod or email riskytalk@maths.cam.ac.uk

    Risky Talk is produced by Ilan Goodman for the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge.

  • How can we communicate about climate change in the most engaging, informative and even persuasive ways? What are the different audiences we need to reach, and how can we craft effective communications for each of them?

    Joining David to guide us through the psychology, politics and science of climate change communication we have:

    Dr Anthony Leiserowitz, Director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication Dr Emily Shuckburgh OBE, Climate scientist and Director of Cambridge Zero Dr Sander van der Linden, Director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Laboratory

    Full transcript available here

    Views to share? Get in touch on Twitter @RiskyTalkPod or email riskytalk@maths.cam.ac.uk

    Risky Talk is produced by Ilan Goodman for the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge.

  • Stats about crime, immigration, unemployment and political polls fuel political debate and drive headlines. But how are these ‘soft’ numbers really calculated? How uncertain should we be about them? And how can they be reported honestly and usefully - without losing trust?

    Joining David to make sense of the stats and how to communicate them are:

    Dr Robert Cuffe, Head of Statistics at the BBC Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation at the UK Statistics Authority Dr Sarah Dryhurst, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge

    Views to share? Get in touch on Twitter @RiskyTalkPod or email riskytalk@maths.cam.ac.uk

    Risky Talk is produced by Ilan Goodman for the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge.

  • Personal genetic risk information is set to be become part of everyday healthcare. But is some unhelpful, even dangerous? What psychological impact does it have on patients? And do doctors know enough about genetics to effectively guide patients and inform treatment decisions?

    Joining David to discussing what genetic risks should be communicated and how, we have:

    Professor Robert Green, Director of the Genomes to People group at Harvard Medical School. Dr Gemma Chandratillake, Course director of the Genomic Medicine Programme at the University of Cambridge Dr Saskia Sanderson, a UCL psychologist working on the impact of genetic information

    With a special contribution from Jillian Hastings Ward, Chair of the participant panel for the 100,000 Genomes Project.

    Views to share? Get in touch on Twitter @RiskyTalkPod or email riskytalk@maths.cam.ac.uk.

    Risky Talk is produced by Ilan Goodman for the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge.

  • Risky Talk features conversations with the world’s top experts in risk and evidence communication addressing urgent, practical challenges: How can doctors communicate the risks and benefits of medical treatment? How should scientists communicate evidence about climate change? How can journalists make numbers meaningful to readers? How should government institutions convey important statistics?

    Hosted by David Spiegelhalter (@d_spiegel)

    Get in touch with us on Twitter (@RiskyTalkPod) or email (riskytalk@maths.cam.ac.uk)

    Produced by Ilan Goodman for the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge.