The Limits of Data

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Here at Pioneer, we are all for data-driven decision-making, and rely on publicly-available data all the time.

But that can be a problem when the data being provided is garbage… or worse.

In case you missed, the Globe is in the midst of a slow-motion evisceration of the state’s Probation Department and their article on Sunday was a stunner.

It revealed, among other, things that the Probation Department was using a non-standard measure of caseload (measuring all cases open during a calendar year) and when the nationally-accepted standard was put in place, caseload dropped from 167 cases per officer to ‘about 40’.

From reading the piece, and the series, its clear that Probation has operated off the grid of oversight for some time, and we continued to generously fund that department when no one really had any idea what it was doing.

It should serve as a cautionary tale — use publicly available data to the fullest, but make sure the data is accurate.