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Trying to Quantify Uncertainty

Department of Statistics public lecture

Date: Wednesday 17 November 2010
Time: 6.30-8pm 
Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House
Speaker: Professor David Spiegelhalter
Chair: Professor Anthony C Atkinson 

There has been a traditional division between 'risk', which can be quantified using probability distributions, and 'uncertainty', which is the surrounding mess of doubt, disagreement and ignorance. In well-understood situations we may be happy to quote reasonable odds for future events, and I shall look at ways in which these risks can be communicated visually. When the problem is more complex, analysts may use a mixture of judgement and historical data to construct a mathematical model that can assess future risks, but deeper uncertainties may be glossed over. I will use examples from swine flu to climate change to illustrate different approaches to dealing with uncertainty, from ignoring it to trying to fully quantify it, and conclude that we should all try to be aware and open about the magnitude and potential consequences of our ignorance.

David Spiegelhalter is Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge as well as senior scientist in the MRC Biostatistics Unit.

Professor Anthony C Atkinson is Professor of Statistics at the Department of Statistics at LSE.

There will be a free networking drinks and finger buffet reception for members of the audience served after the lecture.

This event is free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis. For any queries email events@lse.ac.uk or call 020 7955 6043. 


A copy of Professor David Spiegelhalter's powerpoint presentation is available to download.  Download 'Trying to Quantify Uncertainty' (pdf).


A podcast of this event is available to download from the LSE Public Lectures and Events: podcasts and videos channel.

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