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Plenary Session: Statistical Thinking and Politics: Perspectives from a Parliamentary Experience

Pedro Manuel Saraiva, University of Coimbra, Portugal

After some decades in an academic career, during which I used a strong statistical background to conduct research activities, I was given the opportunity to run twice for election as a Member of the National Parliament of Portugal. It is mostly about this challenging experience and period of my life (ranging from 2009 to 2015) as a Member of Parliament (MP) that I will share examples, thoughts and conclusions. This talk will show evidence of how statistical thinking and tools, as well as fact-based approaches, can provide a better understanding about how Parliaments work and some of  the strongest features of their organizational cultures, and help achieve better results, increased efficiency and efficacy.

For that purpose, specific illustrations will be provided, through which I will try to show namely how statistical tests, variation analysis, clustering or Bayesian interpretations were applied to several situations related to the Portuguese Parliament, politics and politicians.

I hope that this presentation will provide enough support to show that indeed statistical thinking and tools can help to better understand and improve Parliaments and help politicians make better fact-based decisions. Parliaments and societies are likely to improve if more people with a good statistical background accept the challenge of becoming a MP, at least for a while. 

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