Although the journal article was ostensibly focused on Singaporean perceptions of the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) – and how this housing policy may influence the decisions of home-owners when choosing a flat – the ST article zoomed in on the preferences of home-owners to not live close to HDB public rental blocks (ST, Mar. 22). It cited the lead researcher, Associate Professor Leong Chan-Hoong of the Singapore University of Social Sciences, who concluded: “After price and location, proximity to public rental flats would be the variable that discourages a person from buying a unit”.
Careful reporting of survey findings is important. Focusing disproportionately on the observation that households with foreign domestic workers use 20 per cent more water than those without (ST, Mar. 9) – 160 litres compared to 135 litres, on a daily, per-capita basis – and attributing the higher water consumption to the hypothesis that “washing and cooking activities are done more often in homes with maids” results in two problems. First, the conflation of correlation and causation, especially when other factors potentially related to consumption, besides the number of individuals in a household, have not been adequately considered; and second, relatedly, the leap to a causal explanation without convincing empirical evidence.
Even though a survey conducted by nominated MP Anthea Ong and her team of volunteers yielded some useful insights about the accessibility and affordability of mental health treatment in Singapore, from a research perspective more data is still needed to better understand the state of mental health in the country. In fact, the concession that the survey was “not an official study aligned to rigorous standards of academic research” (ST, Mar. 5) should bring attention to the need for improved data collection, presentation, and collaboration.
A study by health technology company Royal Philips found that Singaporeans now get an average of 6.9 hours of sleep every night in 2020 – compared to 6.4 hours in 2019 (CNA, Mar. 13) – but beyond the descriptive information there is little explanation for the increase in the number of hours. In other words, among the 1,000 surveyed respondents*, why are they getting more sleep over the last year? As per the study findings, is it solely related to caffeine intake? More proper bedtime or wake-up schedules? Or the increase in the take-up of reading?
Poll proportions alone (or percentages) – for instance, that 81 per cent of Singaporeans are afraid of infection and that 35 per cent would still attend events even with mild symptoms (ST, Feb. 17) – may provide some useful descriptive information, yet news agencies could explore more effective ways to present the information, include cross tabulations to explore the relationship between different variables, and consequently use the data to better inform policy decisions.