International Year of Statistics 2013

Posted in General, Statistics by Pierre Jacob on 19 November 2012

Britney hears about the forthcoming International Year of Statistics


At Statisfaction’s headquarters (located inside a volcanic crater on a distant planet), we received an email from Jeffrey Myers from the American Statistical Association to advertise the International Year of Statistics, 2013!

To quote the webpage:

The goals of Statistics2013 include:

  • increasing public awareness of the power and impact of Statistics on all aspects of society;
  • nurturing Statistics as a profession, especially among young people; and
  • promoting creativity and development in the sciences of Probability and Statistics

Those are great goals that we obviously support! Statistics is an important field of applied mathematics and has been for a while now, but public awareness still has to increase. At cocktail parties, it still isn’t super sexy to admit that you’re a statistician. It should be! And it’s good that some people are working on that at Amstat, at Tumblr, at NYTimes, at Rstudio and elsewhere.

We’ll go on blogging here, maybe with new contributors and more technical posts shortly. Stay tuned!


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11 Responses

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  1. Pedro said, on 20 November 2012 at 15:15

    Sorry, but Statistics isn’t a field of mathematics or applied mathematics; it is a field on its own. It uses mathematics, as Physics, Chemistry , Engineering and many fields do.

    • Pierre Jacob said, on 20 November 2012 at 17:13

      Hey Pedro.

      Well, everybody has an opinion on that. In France for instance there is no such thing as a PhD diploma in Statistics, there are only diplomas in say “Applied Mathematics”, “Social Sciences” or other broad field names like that. So here it’s not controversial to say that statistics is part of Applied Maths.

      Also, Statistics is basically about applying probabilistic tools to solve problems for which there is informative data available, isn’t it? Fields of Physics / Chemistry / etc are defined by what they’re concerned about (matter, motion, etc), but Statistics can be about pretty much everything, so Applied Maths sounds right.

      I don’t have strong opinions on this, but is it really important anyway?

      • Statistician from Finland said, on 21 November 2012 at 17:55

        >”is it really important anyway?”
        Yes, it is. Statistics is a field on its own, just like Pedro said. This is the international year of Statistics, not Mathematics (Applied or Pure or whatever). This topic is really quite important, although it might not seem like that from a French perspective. (I must add that this view of “stats as a part of maths” sounds quite surprising, thinking, e.g., about the famous French school of data analysis initiated by Benzecri and so tied to the French society, Bourdieu etc.)

        (Some) mathematicians may think that statistics is just a part of mathematics, but that would only mean the subset of mathematical statistics. Statistics has its roots strongly in empirical applications, and nowadays it is also very connected to computer science. Haven’t you heard that Statistician is one of the sexiest jobs? See, e.g., New York Times (2009):

  2. Statistician from Finland said, on 21 November 2012 at 18:12

    I would like to add that the animated graph of Britney [Spears] on your blog is both sexistic and stupid. I am sure you – as a representative of this sexy profession – could come up with stg more clever. Thanks!

    • Pierre Jacob said, on 22 November 2012 at 09:18

      Dear Sexy Statistician from the North,

      Your comments are turning me on. If you can send me an animated GIF of you (if possible, naked) looking forward to the International Year of Statistics (with shiny eyes or equivalent), I would be happy to replace Britney’s GIF with it. In the meantime, I really like Britney.


      • Statistician from Finland said, on 27 November 2012 at 07:54

        Dear Pierre,
        Thanks for your suggestion. However, I’m afraid that any picture of me – clothes on or off – would be even worse. My shiny eyes (how did you know?) would certainly not satisfy your wild readers.

        Returning to the question of “Stats vs Maths”: I recently read an enjoyable article about John Wilder Tukey: ‘his life and professional contributions’ written in 2002 by David Brillinger, his PhD student #20 (of 57). There are lots of great quotes, one of them being the following (on p.1543):

        “Statistics is a science in my opinion, and it is no more a branch of mathematics than are physics, chemistry and economics.” (Tukey 1953)

        Without the unfortunate language barrier, the term “data analysis” could perhaps be attributed to Benzecri, instead of Tukey. After all, “analyse des données” was there already in the 1960s, while Tukey’s DA appeared in the beginning of the 1970s.

        - SF

        • Pierre Jacob said, on 27 November 2012 at 12:30

          Interesting quote indeed! Thanks for the reference.

          As I said I don’t have strong opinions on this, but I remain unconvinced about the importance of defining Statistics as a separate field or as a sub-part of applied maths. I certainly didn’t mean to offend anyone or diminish the importance of Statistics.

          I wonder how the guys at chose their categories. They put Statistics as a separate field from Maths, except Statistics Theory, but then they also have a separate field called Nonlinear Sciences with a bit of this and that. I guess there isn’t any established categorization.

          • Statistician from Finland said, on 27 November 2012 at 14:27

            I guess there are many. Naturally, categorizations are useful for many purposes, but they may be a bit challenging, as you noticed. Interestingly enough, “Statistics Theory” is categorized both under math and stat, which is fair, of course (they seem to lead on the same page, although the URL is different).

            One certain weakness on categorizations is that they are not too dynamic, cf. AMS:
            where Statistics appears as “subcategory 62″ of Mathematics. The titles of the subcategories may give quite an old-fashioned and restricted view of Statistics. A separate classification of Statistics would certainly be much richer and more up to date.

            “None of the above, but in this section”…

  3. Julyan Arbel said, on 22 November 2012 at 19:03

    Well I had the same reaction as Britney when I heard of the IYS2013, so I cannot say that I dislike the GIF.

    Thank you Pierre for the RStudio – Shiny link, I’ll try that soon !

    • Pierre Jacob said, on 23 November 2012 at 04:35

      If it’s good you could make a post on that, it looks terrific!:)

  4. Another statistician from Finland said, on 11 December 2012 at 20:44

    What I tend to tell the common people (add an animated gif of Jarvis Cocker here) when they ask is that statistics is the art of taking photographs, mathematics is the art of making cameras. It is relatively easy to compare cameras, and you can usually measure whatever improvements you make in its design. It is bit more difficult to compare photos, the photographer must make an interpretation of the subject. To do this, she must know the mathematical properties of the camera and the theory of photography. I’d think there’s a clear analogy to statistics: it too is about interpretation of what the data are. To do this, quite a bit of understanding of mathematics behind statistics is needed.

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