Last year experts were pilloried for their failure to predict events accurately. Nate Silver, having famously correctly predicted all 50 state results in the 2012 US Presidential Election, was largely incorrect in predicting the November 2016 result.
The unexpectedness of the result of the ‘Brexit’ referendum was also blamed on ‘experts’. Polls which predicted a ‘remain’ outcome were mocked and derided by the pundits who themselves had taken the same predictions as unassailable.
So what is the lesson from this? For me it is a reminder that research findings, predicted outcomes etc do not make decisions for organisations or individuals. Research itself does not have ‘agency’, the capacity to take actions. It is individuals that act, based on the best guidance that they have available.
Scorning advice from experts is not a realistic or sensible course – Michael Gove and his ‘people have had enough of experts’ comments, still perpetuates his own contribution to the “commentarati” via his regular columns in The Times.
We need our experts and we should treat them fairly – we need expert research, expert analysis and expert predictions. We should objectively look at all evidence in front of us and not ‘cherry-pick’ the pieces which agree with our pre-conceived bias and expectations.
Better decision-making is enabled by better understanding of the situation – good counsel comes from good experts. Ultimately though you own your own decisions.
The expert members of the Measurement Practice have each written their own take on the impact of 2016 events on communications and research. You can read their thoughts here.