Data journalism highlights this week
Apologies for the three-week absence — I’ve been on holiday. In Scotland. It was ace. It looked like this:
Anyway, here are some highlights of what the Reach Data Unit has been up to.
The virtual World Cup wall chart
Our sports data journalist David Dubas-Fisher and the team have been busy making all kinds of interactive goodies ahead of the World Cup. Our probabilistic simulator will be out next week, but we’ve already seen great figures for our virtual wall chart.
The reader predicts results for each game, and the gadget works out the final group standings, next-round fixtures, and so on, all the way to the final. Readers can then share their forecast and see what everyone else has predicted, too.
It’s been used on more than a dozen Reach websites and you can try it, for example, here.
Here’s my rather sad prediction for England’s group:
But wait! In the second round…
…at which point I predict reality will set in.
I’ve got France winning the World Cup; at time of writing, 16.8% of readers say the same. A rather optimistic 7.3% have England winning.
Oh, and that probabilistic simulator we’re launching next week? We’ve already run just over 66,000 simulations on our own. Brazil have won 18,282 times. Germany (perhaps surprisingly) have won a significantly fewer 11,560 times. Spain have won 9,115 times.
England have won just 2,904 times, suggesting they have a 4.4% chance of winning the tournament.
Still, it could be worse. Saudi Arabia are the only country not to win once in 66,000 attempts.
Has the UK finally noticed that stalking is a crime?
The unit’s Annie Gouk spent part of the week investigating new figures on stalking. It turns out numbers have shot up.
Take the North East of England, for instance. In 2016, 62 crimes of stalking were recorded. In 2017, that figure rose nearly tenfold to 610.
Two new offences of stalking were introduced in 2012, and the Home Office believes the rising numbers are due to better awareness — among police forces and the public at large — that stalking is, in fact, a serious crime. If that’s true, however, it’s reasonable to believe the figure will continue to rise sharply in coming years. How high? It’s impossible to say, but it’s certainly crucial journalists monitor the situation.
Hospital waits: the news just gets worse
Claire Miller’s been looking at the latest NHS data and I’ll just leave this here as an example of what she found.
Yeah, yeah, I mention NHS figures a lot. And it’s true that we do a lot of stories about NHS data. But there’s an obvious, and very good, reason for this. It sometimes feels that national news outlets only notice there’s a problem in our hospitals when annual UK-wide figures come out, or quarterly figures at best. Yet the data for individual trusts is published every month, and every month a new hospital slips intocrisis.
This local picture needs reporting, as and when it happens. These aren’t just figures, but figures reflecting real people facing real problems that can have life-altering consequences. And these are real NHS staff, too, facing increasingly impossible, increasingly stressful demands.
While we’re on the topic of the NHS, senior data journalist Rob Grant did some work around hospital trust finances and the findings were equally troubling.
Here’s the story he did for Coventry, for example:
Rob also published the findings of an ever-popular Freedom of Information request he does from year-to-year: the number of call-outs to specific neighbourhoods for specific types of pest control.
It’s always interesting to see how the more and less affluent areas have very different problems.
Take Manchester, for instance. East Didsbury — one of the richest parts of the city — has the biggest issue with wasps, with 60 calls about nests since January 2016.
When it comes to rats, it’s a different picture. By far the most calls were in Miles Platting and Newton Heath, one of Manchester’s most deprived wards. And while that’s interesting in itself, it also has obvious public-health implications, too.
Cancer: not one disease, and not one national picture
An average of 828 people are told they have cancer every day in England, according to figures Claire looked at this week.
There were some interesting, if fairly familiar, national lines: 65.3% of cases are in those aged 65 and over; breast cancer (15.2% of cases), prostate cancer (13.4% of cases), lung cancer (12.7% of cases) and colorectal cancer (11.5% of cases) remain the most common types.
What interested us, however, were the regional differences. For example, the average rate of cancer incidence ranges from 556 cases per 100,000 people in London to 630 per 100,000 people in the North East. Different age profiles are one factor, but lifestyle differences matter, too.
Different cancers are more common in different regions, too. In the West Midlands, women are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer as those in the East Midlands; in Yorkshire and the Humber, men are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer as those in the South West.
Other stuff? Well I should congratulate the whole team for winning the innovation and initiative award at the Regional Press Awards 2018. Oh, and InPublishing wrote a really nice article about what we do which you can read here. The author Nick Turner spent some time with us, and the piece includes a first-hand account of how we work day-to-day.