Welcome to the International Year of Statistics!

November 26, 2012

in Blog

It is a great personal pleasure and honor for me to write the first entry of the Statistics2013 blog! For it, I have chosen to write about two main questions: Why Statistics? Why this worldwide celebration now?

The first question—Why Statistics?—is easy to answer. Everyone is finally starting to realize that they need statistics, in their day-to-day lives and/or in their jobs. This is the result of the hard work of many statisticians promoting the profession, and also because it has now become really inexpensive to collect and store data and there is an increasing imperative to convert this largely untapped resource into valuable information. Who can do that? Statisticians!

As Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, says: “If left shoes [the data] are really cheap and you have a monopoly in right shoes [people with analytic capability to analyze that data, i.e., statisticians], you are in a really good position.” Other people have confirmed the increasing need for statisticians. An article by Annamaria Andriotis in SmartMoney, a publication of The Wall Street Journal, lists Statistics as one of the five college majors that can help getting a job in U.S. In The New York Times, Steve Lohr wrote an article titled, “For today’s graduate, just one word: Statistics”. In Brazil, one of the fastest growing players in the global economy, Camila Lam wrote an article for Exame magazine in which she listed Statistician as one of the eight underestimated jobs in Brazil (“8 profissões subestimadas no Brasil”). And the list goes on, all over the world.

An editorial in Science by Marie Davidian and Thomas A. Louis offers a detailed answer to the question: Why statistics? They also predict that, “This field will become ever more critical as academia, businesses, and governments rely increasingly on data-driven decisions, expanding the demand for statistics expertise.” These data-driven decisions already have started, and they will undoubtedly increase.

Why this worldwide celebration of Statistics now? I prefer to ask: why only just now? My answer to this question is similar to the answer to the previous one: It is the result of a lot of hard work by many Statisticians promoting the profession. The International Year of Statistics will definitively bring Statistics and the profession of Statistician into the spotlight.

I congratulate and thank all the individuals and associations involved in one way or another in promoting and organizing this worldwide celebration. It will be a success, for sure! I hope that everyone takes advantage of this opportunity to increase the awareness of Statistics in their own country and within their scientific and professional networks.

The time of bad jokes about statistics is gone, and the era of big decisions based on Statistics is rising.

I close the same way that Ron Wasserstein, executive director of the American Statistical Association, opened his keynote address at a conference in Lisbon last July: It is a great time to be a Statistician! Yes, it is!

Paulo Canas Rodrigues
ISLA Campus Lisbon, Laureate International Universities