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 Do You Know What Happened to Your Data?

The way data is being put to use continues to explode. From purely statistical research in the past, to the ‘big data’ bubble, data is getting copied and reused in novel and interesting ways. All it seems to need is an idea and a dataset, and the two don’t even have to be connected for government to show interest.

At least three of the five priorities of the government’s forthcoming comprehensive spending review are likely to have large data components. This will set the funding for government bodies for the next five years and is the underlying basis for all decisions made during this parliament. At the same time, the data trust deficit is as big as ever, and growing as policy makers just keep on digging.

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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 October. To see the complete list of activities for 2015, please click here.

World of Statistics BlogThumbnail image for ASA Issues Statement on Role of Statistics in Data Science

By Jeffrey A. Myers

In a policy statement issued last week, the American Statistical Association (ASA) stated statistics is “foundational to data science”--along with database management and distributed and parallel systems--and its use in this emerging field empowers researchers to extract knowledge and obtain better results from Big Data and other analytics projects.

The statement also encourages “maximum and multifaceted collaboration” between statisticians and data scientists to maximize the full potential of Big Data and data science.

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Significance MagazineThumbnail image for How to Communicate the Uncertainty in Economic Statistics

Government statistical agencies often report official economic statistics as point estimates. Buried within the documents describing their data and methods, there may be an acknowledgment that these are in fact estimates subject to error, but they typically don’t quantify the size of these errors. News releases in turn then present the official estimates with little if any mention of potential error. But I think their failure to communicate this uncertainty gives an incomplete view of the statistics. In my opinion, agencies need to measure and report this more prominently in their news releases and technical publications.

Why is it important to communicate uncertainty in official statistics? A broad reason is that governments, firms and individuals use the statistics when making numerous decisions.

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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 World of Statistics.

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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 Livestock Statistician Knows Data Matter

By Dan Kerestes

Growing up on a small general crop and livestock farm in central Minnesota cultivated my enthusiasm for agriculture. Even then I knew I wanted to do something related to agriculture but I also knew the value of getting a good education. I attended the University of Minnesota to earn my undergraduate degree, after which I earned a Master's of Science degree at North Dakota State University.

College provided me with skills in mathematics and agriculture but like most college graduates, no job. This is where the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture came into the picture.

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