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Statistics: The science of learning from data

The field of statistics' impact on society

Recently released report highlights the field of statistics' impact on society

2013 was the International Year of Statistics, a year-long celebration of the American Statistical Association, the Royal Statistical Society and four other leading statistical organizations that attracted participants from more than 2,300 organizations in 128 countries. This event, also known as Statistics2013, was a major effort to increase the visibility of statistics and to encourage young people to consider statistics as a career.

With data and statistics always on his mind, College of Science Dean Sastry Pantula was actively involved in the event, promoting statistics on global, national and regional levels. The International Year of Chemistry in 2011 prompted Pantula, then past-president of the American Statistical Association, to seed the conversation for an International Year of Statistics.

After a successful Statistics2013, The World of Statistics released a report last week that summarizes the future of the field entitled Statistics and Science: A Report of the London Workshop on the Future of the Statistical Sciences, which was the product capstone event held for the International Year of Statistics in London last November. Approximately 100 prominent statisticians from around the world gathered at this invitation-only, high-level summit. Pantula moderated the London workshop and served on the steering committee for the International Year of Statistics.

The report is written in an accessible style so people who are not experts in statistics can understand the field’s impeccable impact on society. Key areas include: how statistics Is used in the modern world, pertinent case studies, current trends and future challenges, Big Data and related topics.

“With data playing an increasingly important role in our daily lives, it’s important for people to understand the field of statistical science,” explains Dean Pantula. “Statistics leads to key discoveries and innovation, and enables policy makers and educators to make sound data-based decisions. At OSU, statistical sciences play an important role in the university’s strategic priorities of healthy people, on a healthy planet in a healthy economy.”

This report can be a good tool to educate the public, students and policymakers about the growing importance of statistics in society. The World of Statistics reports that statistical sciences are as healthy as they ever have been, with robust growth in student enrollment, abundant new sources of data, challenging problems to solve and related opportunities to grasp over the next century.

According to The World of Statistics, many people associate the word "statistics" with either sports-related numbers or of the college class they took and barely passed. But there is more to the relationship between people and statistics than you might imagine. Statistics can help discover new medicines, improve the quality of products, predict hazards, and mitigate the risks, among others.

A Career in Statistics: Beyond the Numbers offer several interesting definitions of statistics:

  • 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

Watch a video about why statistics are important to you.

Read more stories about: statistics, data science