The World of Statistics

What is Statistics?

When many people hear the word "statistics," they think of either sports-related numbers or the college class they took and barely passed. While statistics can be thought about in these terms, there is more to the relationship between you and statistics than you probably imagine.

So, what is statistics? Several informal definitions are offered in the book A Career in Statistics: Beyond the Numbers by Gerald Hahn and Necip Doganaksoy:

  • The science of learning from (or making sense out of) data
  • The theory and methods of extracting information from observational data for solving real-world problems
  • The science of uncertainty
  • The quintessential interdisciplinary science
  • The art of telling a story with [numerical] data

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Stats LifeThumbnail image for Big Data and Official Statistics–The International View

During January’s Royal Statistical Society's debate on 'What is the future of official statistics in the big data era?', John Pullinger described big data as 'a wake-up call for official statisticians'. Despite the huge challenges, there are indeed many who agree. Official statisticians around the world have been thinking about what big data means for them, and innovating in a wide range of fields, in all corners of the globe.

One of the most influential groups in this arena is the DataPop Alliance think-tank, which focusses on big data and development. They have produced a white paper entitled 'Official Statistics, Big Data and Human Development: Towards a New Conceptual and Operational Approach' (written together with Paris21) which is currently available for comment.

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StatsLife is the news, opinion and resource website of the Royal Statistical Society.

World Population Clock

Below are The World of Statistics participating organization events and activities around the world that will be conducted during April. To see the complete list of activities for 2015, please click here.

World of Statistics BlogThumbnail image for World Statistics Day 2015 Is October 20

By Jeffrey A. Myers

Official statistics help decision-makers develop informed policies that impact millions of people. Improved data sources, sound statistical methods, new technologies and strengthened statistical systems enable better decisions that eventually result in better lives for all of us.

On October 20 this year, the global statistical community will showcase their achievements and their ongoing work to help this vision come true as part of World Statistics Day 2015.

The inaugural World Statistics Day was proclaimed by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2010 to recognize the importance of statistics in shaping our societies. The holding of national and regional statistical days already was a tradition in more than 100 countries. The General Assembly’s adoption of this international day as October 20 brought new light to this important observance. The first World Statistics Day was commemorated October 20, 2010 in more 130 countries and areas.

The year of 2015 marks an important confluence for official statistics, with the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals, the post-2015 development agenda, the data revolution, the preparations for the 2020 World Population and Housing Census Programme and so much more.

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Significance MagazineThumbnail image for How The Anti-Vaccine Movement Lie With Statistics

Sometimes Facebook’s suggestions of things to read lead to some seriously funny material. After clicking on a link about vaccines, Facebook recommended I read an article about health outcomes in unvaccinated children. Reading this rubbish made me as annoyed as a certain box of blinking lights, but it again affords me the opportunity to describe how people can confuse, bamboozle, and twist logic using bad statistics.

First of all, Health Impact News has all the markings of a crank site. For instance, its banner claims it is a site for 'News that impacts your health that other media sources may censor.' This in itself ought to be a red flag, just like Kevin Trudeau’s Natural Cures They Don’t Want You to Know About.

But enough about that. Let’s see how this article and the study they refer to abuses statistics.

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Significance is a publication of the Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association.

Census at School

Challenge Yourself Today!

We are proud to introduce Stats2013AtSchool—a Royal Statistical Society Centre for Statistical Education and American Statistical Association special project expressly designed for schools and students worldwide in support of the International Year of Statistics.

Stats2013AtSchool features an international statistics quiz for school-aged learners. This fun, online quiz is based on WinAtSchool, a competition which comprises multiple choice questions in

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Census at School is a free, web-based classroom project that engages primary and secondary school students in statistical problemsolving using their own data. This international educational initiative, launched in 2000 in the United Kingdom by the Royal Statistical Society Centre for Statistical Education, has programs operating in several countries.

Click here to view the Census at School program in your country or others around the world.

Statistician Job of the WeekThumbnail image for Studying Crops Using Satellite Imagery

By Rick Mueller

While most NASS statisticians studied mathematics, economics or agriculture in school, my career path started in a completely different place. I came to NASS in the 1990s as an IT specialist to help the agency evolve its use of geospatial technology and contribute to the remote sensing acreage estimation program.

When I began working with the remote sensing program, budget constraints limited satellite coverage and analysis to just one county in one state—Craighead County, Arkansas. NASS created this program to derive acreage estimates from satellite imagery, and to provide timely updates of state and county area estimates.

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