Fixing the race – Sydney “world’s fifth most liveable city”

Picture of Hong Kong from The Economist

Is the woeful level of analysis of research studies a sign of the pressure on existing media services to push out more news with fewer resources?

Here’s another one. [Disclosure: Melbourne, long tagged “one of the world’s most livable cities” is my home town].

The Sydney Morning Herald reported recently on a study that reflected well on it – the development of a new index for rating cities’ liveability, in a contest run by the Economics Intelligence Unit:

Sydney is the fifth most liveable city in the world, according to a new ranking that focuses on green space.

The list of the world’s best cities to live in, which combines Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) global “liveability” rankings with new criteria that examine “spatial characteristics”, put Sydney fifth.

Hong Kong was judged the most liveable city, followed by Amsterdam, Osaka and Paris, after additional criteria including urban sprawl, connection and proximity to other cities, and pollution were taken into account.

Sydney was the only Australian city to make the top 10.

CNNGo reported that:

Neither proud Vancouverites nor Melbourne’s residents will be happy about the latest liveability index to have hit the headlines.

Those two cities, which have in recent years jousted for the top spot in the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)’s bi-annual global liveability index, didn’t feature at all in the latest ranking to be published by the organization.

Instead, Hong Kong took the no. 1 spot, in the study that was compiled by an architect and urban planner, Filippo Lovato, the winner of EIU’s competition to come up with a new way of interpreting their data.

However there was an astonishing aspect of the methodology, hidden away on The Economist’s page on the study:

Mr Lovato only examined 70 cities, rather than the 140 in the EIU’s full ranking—he does have a day job after all—and in his efforts to choose the biggest and most geographically diverse places, he excluded the likes of Melbourne, Vancouver and Vienna, which occupy the top three slots in the main EIU table.

Uhuh. So in the interests of choosing biggest and most geographically diverse places – he excluded Melbourne (Asia-Pacific, pop 4.1 million), Vancouver (North America, pop 2,313,325) and Vienna (Europe, pop 1,724,381). Which were the top rated cities according to the actual data.

And “—he does have a day job after all”! So it’s OK to both conduct and report uncritically a fatally flawed study because the person who did it, and the people who reported it, were busy?

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