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The Other View

Data Darbar – On Current Data Based Writing at Rugpundits

On RugPundits there have recently been a number of posts on data analysis, mostly with a focus on the upcoming elections with more concerning the War and the Census coming up in the future as well. We are doing so, because we feel there is a lot of unexplored information lying around and these are all issues that interest us personally. While working on these pieces, we have been collecting Datasets, Data-based Research and other work related to Data and Pakistan in our library’s data section, where you can also find links to Think Tanks, Research Institutions and to take a break some music to listen to (RP Library). We also collect all data posts there.

A few words are however necessary to explain – what we think are the limits of this work and why we are qualified (and to what extent) to do it.

Sudhan Ghali - Chikar Road (AJK, 2006)

Sudhan Ghali – Chikar Road (AJK, 2006)

the limits

There exists the misconception, that data itself is raw and true and once you manage to pack it all in a graph you have it all laid out and there is little space left to argue. Especially with recent debates on drones for the case of Pakistan this problem is becoming apparent. Different respected scholars and think tanks read completely different results from the same facts and with their stubborn trust in numbers they fail to see much more important arguments. This very recent article by Hamzah Saif is an excellent explanation of this dilemma and a must-read.

Data, Statistics and Numbers can be used to make a point. But trusting them blindly is dangerously naive. Even datasets have often been assembled with a certain bias to preconceived opinions on a topic. Many posts we put up at the early stage are meant to make data accesible in a reasonable format first and foremost. More detailed Statistical Analysis (other than a mere optical evaluation of correlation) are in planning but will take some time.

We try to make data accesible and point out as many possible flaws as we can find. Where we interpret this is mostly based on our personal experience as well, which is not just data based …

our qualification

We are neither social scientists nor data analysts by profession. We do however have experience in data trust in other areas (climate change research for one, where very similar problems arise) and we have detailed knowledge and experience of ground realities. Geographically our strength lies more in the North of the country (that is Sindh and Balochistan not so much), since we have (and do so until today) lived or worked in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Kashmir.

This work is not directly related to what we write about here (we sell carpets, do IT programming, research on water and climate change, make music and are active in development projects) but some of these experiences give us an ability to judge.

We welcome strong criticism of our work.

About Jakob Steiner

... lived, worked and studied in Australia, Europe and Asia.


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March 2013


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