5 Big Questions: Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter


During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been ‘guided by the science’ – but does the general public know what that actually means?

Why don’t organisations still understand their data well enough – and what to do with it, and how to interpret them?

Numbers don’t give us the answers, but the skills to read them do. Who is teaching this, and at what age?

And do Professor Jonathan Van Tam’s analogies about football and trains work, when communicating critical public health information…?


In this week’s 5 Big Questions interview we talk to one of the world’s pre-eminent statisticians, government advisers, and public science communicators, PROFESSOR SIR DAVID SPIEGELHALTER OBE FRS



Known for:

  • Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk – University of Cambridge (UK)
  • Fellow of Churchill College – Cambridge
  • Non-Executive Director – UK Statistics Authority
  • Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society
  • Author – The Art of Statistics

The 5 Big Questions:

    1. How do you measure the impact of what you do?
    2. How should people/businesses be preparing for the future?
    3. How do we build the workforce we need for that future?
    4. How do you use creativity to solve problems?
    5. How do you collaborate?

Key quotes

“What I would call ‘data literacy’ is not part of any subject. And we’ve got such an appallingly siloed education system that unless you’re some silo that’s going to have a GCSE at the end of it, it doesn’t get dealt with. This is a real challenge.”

“Everyone in this area is struggling with how you can bring data literacy into the education system. If someone could tell me, I would give them a huge hug and say thank you very much.”

“I’m proud to count beans, is what I say. How many beans make five? Two beans, a bean, a bean and a half, and half a bean.”

This episode was recorded in October 2021

Interviewer: Richard Freeman for always possible

Editor: CJ Thorpe-Tracey for Lo Fi Arts


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