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The Numbers Don't Lie (Google Trends)

Advocates for any type of movement - whether it be environmentalism or tax reform - are just as prone to self-deluding fallacies as the next person. This includes, of course, EBP advocates. We too are prone to suffer from confirmation bias - seeing, for example, a 'massive growth' in interest in policing research because a handful of guys and girls stopped one of us after a presentation to talk about x, y or z. As individuals and groups who advocate for the use of cold hard data and calm, cool, rational analysis, we should be the first ones to turn to data to objectively measure the effects of our activities. And yet, if it's happening, I rarely see or hear about it.

Because both Lorna and I are secretly obsessed with measuring Can-SEBP's performance in a variety of different spheres, we both run around trying to determine the impact of various products, engagement activities and so on. It's a bit scary sometimes when you wonder aloud how x or y is doing and she suddenly starts riffing on all sorts of numbers you're not quite sure you understand.

More recently, I have been hunting for new ways to measure impact. In my search for a "data gathering unicorn", I turned to Google. Google's search query system is a fantastic source for exploring what and how people think and behave*. Think about it: when someone is anonymously googling "is that a wart on my butt?" along with 20,000 others, there may be some social trend or epidemiological or other phenomenon taking place (an episode of the Kardashians, perhaps, where maybe this week Khloe thinks she has a butt wart?) So, I turned to Professor Google for some help. First, I looked for worldwide trends for "evidence based policing" over the past 12 months. Here's the results:

First, I looked for worldwide trends for "evidence based policing" over the past 12 months. Here's the results:

All that grey area? Lack of interest. Baby blue some mild interest. Dark blue (the UK) the most interest. We have approximately 69,000 police officers in Canada. The UK has about 123,000, and the U.S. has about 687,000. When I put it in those terms, our grayness shouldn't make me feel too bad ... but it does. The UK, which is roughly 1/6 the size of the US in terms of law enforcement numbers, and about almost double our numbers, is trouncing all of us when it comes to individual interest in EBP. And, let's keep in mind that potentially interest parties might also include: those interested in law enforcement, students, academics, and so on. Not good, sports fans.

I decided to test EBP interest against a hobby that I thought might be less popular. Perhaps showing some of my own bias here, I chose knitting.

Here's the results:

As you can see, Canada suddenly lit up like a firecracker, meaning: we got our EBP asses handed to us by a bunch of knitters. Surely, there's something more obscure we could use to run a comparative analysis. Hmm ... what about Sphynx cats?

Okay, so hairless cats are generally more popular than EBP (including in Canada!).

Last try: those incredibly ugly Mexican hairless dogs. Who in the hell would be googling those?

My new mission in life? To have EBP trend in Canada at higher levels than Mexican hairless dogs. #challengeaccepted

*see Seth Stephens-Davidowitz's book Everybody Lies.


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