Should OpenGov advocates be worried about the attacks on @FiveThirtyEight?

First, the came for the statisticians, and I said nothing because I was not a statistician

One of the things I noticed was an increasing amount of attacks on Nate Silver’s 538 blog and his methodology. Some range from concern trolling from Politico to downright name calling by the man behind Unskewed polls.

What Nate Silver does with his predictions isn’t that much of a secret. He used open data (polls) and uses statistical analysis to come up with a forecast on who will win the election. He’s been pretty up front on how his model works and why he does this the way he does.

There have been a few articles defending Silver and trying to explain why he’s getting attacked. One theory is that people who are on Mitt’s side just don’t like the results of the model – And that’s where my concern about the OpenGov movement comes in.

One of the primary reasons why we want to see all this government data produced, opened, and easily distributed is that we can then analyze that data to improve government. Cities are looking at crime data as a way to help send resources to areas before an uptick in crime. The Department of Health and Human Services is actively reaching out to developers and offering data sets to build tools off of. Every aspect of governance is trying to find ways to use data to help improve services.

So, what happens when people don’t like the answers these analysis produce? As much as I hate to bring up global climate change in the aftermath of a Hurricane, it does speak to the point about scientists and data saying one thing over and over again only to have politics put a kibosh on any efforts to take actions based on that data.

As open data becomes more prominent in government, we may end up seeing data telling a story that one side of the political aisle genuinely hates. What’s going to happen to the OpenGov movement wants it becomes a talking point on these prime time pundit shows?

It’s not so far fetched, just look at the reaction from Fox News’ Michelle Malkin during the announcement of the White House Innovation fellows.

I always figured that math and data analysis were non-partisan in nature, but during this election cycle even non-partisan agencies like the Bureau of Labor Statistics got attacked. By Jack Welch no less!

Is this a sign that the OpenGov movement will not only have to advocate that opening up data is good for transparency, but that it is indeed possible to be able gain actionable intelligence from government data? Should we be worried?

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