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 The Ghosts of Statistics Past, Present and Future

The title of this article was also that of a talk I gave at the RSS Conference in Sheffield this September. In a way, I was trying to provoke the audience and to some extent I succeeded, but maybe not enough as a lot of the audience seemed to agree with me. As the man who was disciplined by the RSS Professional Affairs Committee many years back for daring to suggest that statistics should not only be done by statisticians, I have a reputation to live up to.

But whilst it was a personal view, the talk had a serious theme. I argued that where we are today as a profession is not entirely the logical consequence of where we started from. So, the key questions are: Where are we today? Why are we here? Is it the best place for us, and where do we want to be in the future?

I argued that mega trends in statistics are driven by external drivers, whether the statistical profession fully participates or not. We (the profession) may not want to change, but we may have to in order to survive. Or we may chose not to. Like Scrooge confronting our origins, the reality of the present and the inevitable consequences of our attitudes, actions and behaviours, should help us face the future and be more worthy citizens.

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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 throughout November. 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 Does Christmas Really Come Earlier Every Year?

It has become something of a cliché to remark upon the ever earlier arrival of the Christmas season. Given its popularity you would expect an early arrival to be a source of satisfaction, but this is rarely the case. In reality we seek to delay the festive season until a time we deem suitable - which seems to be much later than the retailers decide. The beginning of the holiday season ends up being greeted with a resounding ‘already?’ As we struggle to fathom how anyone could possibly feel festive at such an early time in the year.

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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 Excelling as an Official Statistician in India

By Pankaj Naithani

As an applied statistician, my career focus is in regional planning, monitoring and evaluating development schemes, conducting specialised sample surveys, and calculating estimates of domestic products.

I practice ranking, indexing, principal component analysis, cluster analysis, multiple regression techniques, discriminant function and other statistical techniques for identifying levels of development of various micro-regions in my state – Uttarakhand—and country—India.

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