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Nicholas Jewell on the connection between documentation and estimation

Professor Spagat interviews Nicholas Jewell about the crucial role of strong case documentation to underpin statistical estimation of war-deaths.

In this clip I interview Nicholas Jewell, long of the University of California Berkeley and now at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

A notable feature of this interview is the stress Nicholas places on his view that statisticians cannot miraculously overcome the deficiencies of bad data. Thus, he emphasizes the importance of solid documentation of war deaths, thereby creating a strong link between Week 1 of our course and Week 2.

Here an extract from the poem by Wislawa Szymborska that Nicholas cites toward the end of the interview.

History counts its skeletons in round numbers.
A thousand and one remains a thousand,
as though the one had never existed:
an imaginary embryo, an empty cradle,
an ABC never read,
air that laughs, cries, grows,
emptiness running down steps toward the garden,
nobody’s place in the line

Perhaps you would like to discuss this extract in the comments section below.

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Accounting for Death in War: Separating Fact from Fiction

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