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 Data as Culture: How Will We Live in a Data Driven Society?

We are experiencing a data revolution. Projections alone for the volume of data speak of 40 zettabyte, or over 5 terabyte per person, by 2020. Data is everywhere: vendor-driven buzzwords like 'big data' dominate the private sector, the general public is more aware of metadata in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations, and we see a positive uptake of data in our daily lives in the form of, for example, transportation apps based on open data and tools for the quantification of fitness activities. Like the internet, data is here to stay.

The UK plays a leading role in the discussion of how data is culture

In my role at the Open Data Institute (ODI) I observe the extremes of data as culture. There are individuals, countries and governments who are almost oblivious of data. They are at the very beginning of integrating data into their society and it will be a long journey of scepticism, sobering experiences and balancing the tension between, for example, use and privacy. The advantages of better informed decisions make resisting these changes difficult, similar to a resistance of adopting the internet.

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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 through the end of October. To see the complete list of activities for 2014, please click here.

World of Statistics BlogThumbnail image for Challenges Faced by International Organizations in the Production of Statistics

By Stephen Katz

While there is no universally accepted definition of official statistics at international level, few would contest that data produced, collated, and disseminated by national governments and their agencies are to be considered as “official”. The role of International Organizations (IOs) in producing official statistics is more controversial: some believe that that they should limit themselves to just compiling already‐existing governmental statistics while others recognize the statistical outputs of IOs as also being “official”.

In the current globalized world, more and more international and national decision making is based also on international sources of statistics. Users rely on international sources to put the national data into perspective and to complement them with additional indicators. IOs add value to official national statistics through the transformation of national data to international “Global Public Goods”, provided to users in a standardized and comparable format across countries.

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Significance MagazineThumbnail image for Public Health–Not All Evidence is Created Equal

When I think ‘public health’ this week, two stories spring to mind - Ebola and London parks, from the appalling to the ridiculous.

Ebola, as I write, is ravaging several African countries, with the most optimistic predictions hoping that the rate of increase of horrible deaths will reach zero early in 2015. A recently discovered virus meets inadequate medical infrastructure and we have a classic public health problem on the scale of the cholera outbreaks that spurred the Victorians to build sewers, if not of the repeated plagues that swept London two centuries earlier.

Both cholera and the earlier plague outbreaks spurred the beginnings of statistical approaches to public health, and that's why today's researchers can predict how long it could take us to get the disease under control, how many more hospital beds Sierra Leone needs, and so on.

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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 A Roundabout Path To Becoming A Statistician

By Dr. Jacquelyn Pennings, Director of Non-Profit Research and Biostatistician, Elite Research

My childhood dream was to be a child psychologist. My pursuit of this dream continued into graduate school. It was after I had started a master’s counseling program that I realized it was not my passion. I was more intrigued by the research process itself than the final result. I was fascinated by the “how,” not the “why.”

At this point, I decided to transfer to the Experimental Psychology program at Texas Christian University to pursue a doctorate in child development. I always had an underlying interest in statistics, however, my interest flourished when I got in touch with an old friend from grad school.

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