My pearls cast before swine.

I am not your rolling wheels.

I am the highway.

]]>That’s news to most of the scientific world. I think it would be news to a lot of statisticians.

“Natural history, archeology (at times) and there are a few more…”

Evolution, Plate Tectonics, The rise of civilization, Solar System, formation of the planets…just the small stuff. I mean, with statistics, you get the really important stuff like….like….normal distributions!

]]>The fact that it doesn’t when you use any old O(1) function of the mass ratio indicates that the “standard” methods are the ones that are wrong. You’ve basically done a bayesian model comparison, and left the “standard stuff” which evidently would predict something much different, having very little posterior probability relative to this simple model. You know the simple model isn’t particularly correct, but it’s not far wrong… so you accomplished your goal, which was to compare data to theory and filter out theories… again statistics…

I look at it this way. Let’s pretend that something more impressive than two objects were fit reasonably well by that equation, say 100. Then we would assume that the equation must be deducible from the standard assumptions used for more complex models in some way. It should be some special case, etc. The actual comparison to the observation is only a tiny part of the process that needn’t be very thorough.

]]>what I think you’re saying is that according to what you’d have thought before doing this exercise, the method should have *big* and *systematic* errors in temperature prediction. The fact that it doesn’t when you use any old O(1) function of the mass ratio indicates that the “standard” methods are the ones that are wrong. You’ve basically done a bayesian model comparison, and left the “standard stuff” which evidently would predict something much different, having very little posterior probability relative to this simple model. You know the simple model isn’t particularly correct, but it’s not far wrong… so you accomplished your goal, which was to compare data to theory and filter out theories… again statistics…

]]>You could then asses for example whether you have good evidence for a linear relationship or not.

See, but this is exactly what I don’t care about. You want to add this tuneable parameter that will soak up the error, but for what reason? We know the model is just some approximation already.

]]>You also may be calculating the Venus lapse rate wrong?

Yes, it was a Kelvin to Celsius issue: (735 – 243)/65 = 7.57

The fact that you’re using a linear equation for the lapse and it’s working ok for 3 data points isn’t really evidence that it really is linear here because the data points are kind of at the endpoints of this line

The alternative proposed was that the lapse rate should be a function of m^(1/3), which doesn’t fit as well but it is really no big deal. Linear is just the simplest function, and is good enough for these purposes.

I guess the point is without some “statistical thinking” we can’t really assess the goodness of this model realistically, we may be over-confident in the model based on its apparently working well with 3 data points which are incapable of detecting much nonlinearity because they are kind of clustered together… To me this is statistical thinking.

Well, yes it is so few data points it could be “coincidence”, as some people said. But can statistics really answer that question for you (this is the famous “is it real” question)?

The issue is that it is derived from some pretty basic physics considerations and then makes the most simple assumptions about the relationship between Earth and similar atmospheres possible. No one thinks it is “true”, but it really shouldn’t even come close if the standard assumptions are ok.

]]>If you don’t call that statistics… well then we really are talking past each other. That kind of thing is the WHOLE REASON that Stan was written.

]]>The pressure on Venus is ~.1 atm at ~65 km altitude where it is ~-30 K. The surface is ~462 K. That gives an average lapse rate of (462 – 75)/50 = 7.56 K/km.

shouldn’t that be (462 – -30)/65 = 7.57 which looks like you typed the wrong thing but calculated the right number at least.

The fact that you’re using a linear equation for the lapse and it’s working ok for 3 data points isn’t really evidence that it really is linear here because the data points are kind of at the endpoints of this line, especially given your point about the errors in the masses and soforth. I mean, you could do an expansion (a + b* mv/me + c*(mv/me)^2 + d * (mv/me)^3) and then insert a model for the uncertainty in mv/me and find a bunch of different curves that fit more or less similarly well… later if you find some other planet about half the mass of venus say in another solar system… you might find that it has I ~ equal to the V value… so then suddenly your model would be favoring something that looks more like a square root law for example, and still passes between V and E…

I guess the point is without some “statistical thinking” we can’t really assess the goodness of this model realistically, we may be over-confident in the model based on its apparently working well with 3 data points which are incapable of detecting much nonlinearity because they are kind of clustered together… To me this is statistical thinking.

]]>It’s a really super nice example though. It has all the cartoon component right?

To me, the most interesting part is that it “makes no sense” given the way atmospheres are usually understood. Ie, it is otherwise surprising. Eg, the fact that lapse rate is a linear function of mass (for these types of atmospheres) is apparently surprising to one of the people answering it.

]]>The average surface temperature is about 98.29 K… The net effect is that the surface temperature (94 K)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_Titan

But I think it works out to the potential for systematic/other error swamps the statistical error so a rough estimate is sufficient.

]]>1) You made some educated guesses about physical processes

2) You computed the consequences of the guesses

3) You used high precision data to plug in numbers to your computation and found that it worked well.

If you had less high precision data like in the 30% errors on venus issue, and you did a Bayesian model you’d find:

“either the model works well and we can get a much improved estimate of the mass and distance for venus, or the data is close to accurate and the model doesn’t work that well”

which would come in the form of a posterior distribution with a dependency structure between the model errors and the parameters that describe the true mass and distance.

]]>your estimate is:

Tv = (de/dv)^(1/2) Te + hp gamma_e (mv/me)

From first principles, without knowing a bunch of measurements, you have 5 parameters:

de/dv

Te

hp

gamma_e

and mv/me

none of which can be determined by pure logic, whereas for example the exponent 1/2 is determined by logical considerations from your assumptions.

Fortunately you have external sources where these are estimated from data to high precision. When you have very high precision estimates of things, you can just ignore the uncertainty in them.

Finally, we don’t expect this to have accuracy of say 18 decimal places, so when we find out it’s good to 5% or whatever we are happy because it’s within the realm of what we might expect (basically a prior on model error).

So I see a lot of “statistical thinking” of the Bayesian kind at least: previous measurements give us delta-function-like priors over some of the parameters, so we replace them with a point estimate, and model error puts a lot of prior weight on a few percent errors… so we consider the final result to be accurate to within the expectations.

]]>Whether or not someone gets the value they expected out of any individual item is a minor legal matter. You can’t lie in advertising. But it doesn’t matter how many regulations you write or how many thousands of apparatchiks you hire to enforce them, our beautiful language will leave room for inference. Most things you can return if you don’t like them.

]]>So Steel and I think that this idea of analyzing datasets in whatever way makes sense is a kind of “statistical thinking” and you think that when you hear “statistical thinking” it means something much more narrow…

Ok, how about this. I’ve been asking some physics questions on stack exchange recently. I don’t think anyone is using “statistical thinking” here: https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/508573/why-does-this-simple-equation-predict-the-venus-surface-temperature-so-accuratel

It is about a simple no-free parameter model that seems to work allowing for +/- a reasonable percentage of the correct answer for every available datapoint (which is only two until some planet is terraformed or an exoplanet is studied in detail). No statistics, no one is asking for statistics, etc. All the discussion is about the logic/assumptions and how to interpret the outputs/inputs.

At the very least you have to agree that whatever role “statistical thinking” plays in there is a tiny proportion of the whole. Yet in fields like biomed and psych, statistical output tends to dominate the entire discussion for some reason.

]]>In any case, the world needs people who think about how data can be collected and used to weed through which scientific ideas turn out to be actually true or effective or whatever vs which don’t, and who can explicate what the appropriate logical arguments are.

I agree with you that the “typical statistics toolbox” from Stats 101, 102, 201, 202 etc is often not particularly good for this purpose.

re matt: well it may seem self indulgent and self aggrandizing, but I assure you it wasn’t intended to be that way. It really is hard for me to tell people what I do in ways that they can understand. “What do you do for a living? Oh I’m a polymath” doesn’t get you many clients, neither does a long description of a bunch of seemingly unrelated projects from fields as diverse as construction, cell biology, finance, and industrial accident analysis…

Certainly if I were to tell them I’m a statistician that’d give them the wrong impression, which is relevant information to the question Anoneuoid and I were debating. People would probably think that I design surveys and analyze them or something. I’m sorry if it seemed self aggrandizing, I assure you it’s not intended that way, it’s more of a “maybe we really have identified a kind of activity that needs a name and for which statistician isn’t sufficient” sort of thing. I also hate “data science”, I certainly don’t study data the way say “planetary scientists” study the earth and moons of jupiter and things.

The fact that I’ve worked on a bunch of different kinds of projects is more or less a negative for the typical client, they usually are looking for “an expert in X”… meh

]]>Well, if you include some information about the position of the earth relative to the sun in some coordinate system, then all of those numbers in that table are statistics of the data set you just mentioned ;-)

I mentioned that above:

I would say that the orbital elements are statistics I guess.

So yes we are summarizing the data for each comet sighting into a smaller set of values that I would call statistics. But the nature of those values are domain specific, it isn’t something general like the mean/median/etc. I don’t think they were arrived at via a process I would call “statistical thinking”.

]]>If a person came to a masters student in statistics with that table of numbers

You don’t get those numbers, that is an intermediate step. You get about 25 entries like:

Date

Latitude of observer

Longitude of observer

Azimuth of comet

Altitude of comet

“I think some comets might be objects orbiting the sun which return periodically” do you think they’d fail to detect periodicity in those numbers, or that they would have a hard time coming up with a prediction for the next return of Halley’s comet or that they wouldn’t be able to decide whether they had made a good prediction when 1758 finally rolled around?

Sure, the step 1 is definitely more than “statistics” it’s a creative part of science that may be done by statisticians but might also be done by scientists or other “subject matter experts”

But the part 3, where you look at the data *with the hypothesis in mind* and try to see if you can find evidence for or against the hypothesis, and try to make predictions after “fitting” the model and then decide what extra data to collect and how to evaluate whether it approximately “fit the predictions” or not… those are all routine ideas in statistics aren’t they?

]]>I didn’t mean to “out” you (your name was right there at the top so I didn’t think it was too anonymous!). Thank you for the essay and rejoinder. It’s interesting for me to think about the attitudes you wrote about and how they related to the academic-industrial complex that generates too many PhDs for too few positions, given that they’re your words. We’ve never met (I think), but I’m familiar with your name because some of your collaborators were my brilliant M.S. advisers (Lisa and Kelly – hopefully that’s anonymous enough for them but sufficient for you). Actually, I think you were in some weird way my “model” for what a graduate student should be. In my first month of graduate school, Lisa lent me “Scientific Method for Ecological Research” which walks through the process of formulating a research question using you (or someone with your name) as an example. I learned from Lisa how to come up with a research question. For me, that has a direct relationship to Statistics because I was taught that a well-formatted research question can be (almost) directly translated into a mathematical relationship between a measurable thing and some other set of measurable things.

So it’s interesting for me to read about your disenchantment with the publish-or-perish model of what constitutes a scientific career and how that relates to my mental model of a good scientist and the pursuit of an academic career. PhDs are not easy things to obtain. They require foremost dedication, persistence, and a willingness to suspend other life-goals (like an income). Secondarily, talent and insight can sometimes help one obtain one (you have these, not all PhDs do). I do not have PhD. I decided to stop at two Masters degrees (Statistics being one) despite being encouraged by the department head of my other degree to pursue a PhD. Quite simply, the cost in blood, sweat, tears, and most of all TIME, did not compute for me. It was my opinion that PhDs these days take longer than ever to get and to get one you have to fulfill a somewhat narrow set of requirements that don’t necessarily translate to any meaningful impact outside of your number of citations.

I’m with an agency now (that I won’t name but probably isn’t hard to figure out) that also means I have to somewhat careful in what I say, lest it me interpreted as me representing something other than my own personal views. It is a “science-agency” but I also think a “knowledge-generating” agency. I’m very happy with the work I’m privileged to do every day, but that’s because we are tasked to with answering specific research questions with management implications. Yes, we must publish to be relevant to a certain extent, but that does not always mean in a peer-reviewed journal. Our job is to investigate and communicate. Hopefully what we communicate informs decision made by those invested with the power to make decisions (it ain’t me!). But I’m happy that in the position I’m in that line seems a bit more direct.

Anyway, good luck in your new position! If I do see you at a conference at some point in the future, I’ll be sure to say hello.

]]>I haven’t sat down and read the proof and verified it myself. I’ve basically “given mathematicians the authority to make the rules for how to logically use mathematical structures”… but this hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster.

The way I see it, we’ve got a lot of BAD / illogical statistics out there, right in the Stats 101 textbooks even, hence the importance of places like this blog.

I mean if you give someone trained in statistics a bunch of dates and coordinates of comet observations, will they come up with something like this that allows us to see the same object reappearing at approximately the same interval: https://i.ibb.co/mBThp1s/synopsisofastron00hall-0013.jpg

I don’t think of doing something like that as “statistical thinking”.

]]>Yes, this has been an unmitigated disaster in many fields. But when a mathematician tells me that there’s a proof that any infinitely smooth function on [0,1] can be approximated arbitrarily well uniformly on the interval by a polynomial I more or less trust them (The Weierstrass approximation theorem: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone%E2%80%93Weierstrass_theorem)

I haven’t sat down and read the proof and verified it myself. I’ve basically “given mathematicians the authority to make the rules for how to logically use mathematical structures”… but this hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster.

The way I see it, we’ve got a lot of BAD / illogical statistics out there, right in the Stats 101 textbooks even, hence the importance of places like this blog.

]]>(lambda (data) (/ (sum data) (count data)))

]]>DeGroot and Schervish. “Definition of a Statistic”. Probability and Statistics. International Edition. Third Edition. Addison Wesley. 2002. ISBN 0-321-20473-5. Pages 370 to 371.

But there is a good reason why that distinction is made. It has to do with the observability/computability of the quantity. You can calculate a sample mean as an objective observable fact about a data set. In other words, you can supply a function that takes the data set, and only the data set, and returns a number. For example using the Scheme dialect of LISP as a very basic functional language, the mean function is

(lambda (data) (/ (sum data) (mean data)))

Any number that comes from a function which immediately evaluates to a number once a dataset is provided qualifies as a “statistic” of that data.

No such function is available in a Bayesian analysis… instead what you have is a function that takes a data set, and returns a function which takes a model and some parameters and returns a value

(lambda (data) (lambda (model paramvals) (model data paramvals)))

the result of evaluating this function with a dataset is a function …. a very general function that returns different values for different models and different parameter values….

Since there are an infinity of statistical model assumptions that could be made about any given dataset, it’s useful to distinguish between things that are essentially “bound variables” once you’ve observed the data vs functions of some free variables (model and paramvals).

the definition of “statistic” emphasizes the computationally bound nature of the quantity once the dataset is given.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_variables_and_bound_variables

This is a pretty fundamental aspect of the logic/computing/mathematics of “a statistic” as understood by “Sampling Theory / Frequentism”

Sampling Theory basically takes “statistics” as the study of the mathematical connections between the output of “statistic functions” when applied to datasets, and the parameters of random number generators that generate datasets.

In my opinion this is at the heart of confusion regarding Bayes vs Frequentist ideas.

I’m hoping Bob Carpenter will chime in here with helpful thoughts from a computer science perspective…

]]>Making the judgement “Which inequality is not so great neither, as that it may not be owing to physical causes.” is statistics (IMHO), that is, it’s attributing an error to some particular kind of cause

Well, I don’t see that being statistics at all.

Anyway, the reason I care is I have seen that scientists gave statisticians the authority to make the rules for how to extract useful info from their data. This has obviously been an unmitigated disaster with millions of generic studies designed to see if there is a difference between groups, etc.

]]>so is “Hence I dare venture foretell, that it will return again in the year 1758” which is making a quantitative prediction from a model with some uncertainty (evidently to within an error of about a year). If the comet came December 29th 1757 no one would have had real reason to accuse Halley of being wrong. Quantitative measures of accuracy are the realm of statistics.

also when you say “So Halley is most concerned about systematic errors, not statistical errors.” you are in my opinion limiting “statistical errors” to too small a scope, you’re thinking “random errors”. The process of deciding whether a thing is “systematic” which is to say, basically a bias, vs “unsystematic” meaning essentially “variance” is itself a statistics question. Like in the case where you have a biased sample of voters and you do MRP the whole point is to “account for systematic differences between the sample and the population of interest” right? That’s certainly something a statistician is rightfully concerned about.

But, there’s something to your point that “typical” discussion of statistics is surrounding all these random sampling type issues. And because of that I don’t call myself a “statistician” usually, though most of the services I offer are about these “statistics writ large” ideas we’re discussing here. I generally tell people that I “do mathematical modeling, data analysis, decision making, and statistics” because I want to ensure that they understand the broader scope. (this is often the point at which people think “ooh math is hard” and turn off their brain and their eyes glaze over, unfortunately the people I can help the most are the ones who know the least about what is possible… a difficult marketing issue)

generally there’s a tension between statistician as model builder, vs statistician as analyzer. Most statisticians aren’t going to formulate pharmacokinetic models or write agent based models for cell migration or describe biomechanics models for evaluation of bone fracture risk, or come up with tidal mixing equations for pollution transport… instead they’ll have some “subject matter expert” build those models, and then try to bolt on some data analysis voodoo on top…

On the other hand, people like Andrew do build their own models to describe voting or suicide risk or whatnot… so sometimes the statistician *is* the model builder. I think this is most common in social sciences.

I think there’s a blurring between Feynman’s part 1 and 2 (guess the answer, and compute the consequences) and part 3 (compare to experiment). Certainly the compare to experiment part is done these days using statistical thinking. Sometimes even parts 1 and 2 may be done by the same person. Ideally as Keith says, each part is a phase of a continuous whole, and individuals participate in all the phases to some extent.

The thing that makes me not a typical scientist is that I don’t study one particular topic, like I’m not a biologist, though I’ve published several biology papers, and I’m not a geoscientist though I’ve published a major paper in soil earthquake liquefaction. And I’m not a biomechanics and biokinesiologist though I’m working with people who do gait analysis for stroke victims… I’m not a civil engineer in the sense that I don’t have a license and don’t perform the services people think of like grading and paving and structure design and soforth, but I have a PhD in Civil Engineering and a major concern of mine is how to arrange the community use of resources: pollution, water, education facilities, hospitals, whatever. I’ve worked for several lawyers doing analysis of damages in construction projects, but I’m not a construction project manager…

What is the name for a person who goes from group to group helping them do a better job of building mathematical models and logically deducing things from data they’ve collected?

The closest standard term we have is statistician, but it’d be great if we could come up with a commonly understood term that encompasses my job. Let me know ;-)

]]>the distinction in Bayes vs Frequentist/Sampling Theory usage of “mean” and “variances” etc is in whether we’re talking about things that can be calculated knowing only the numerical values in the dataset and some constants, such as sample means, which are “statistics” in the formal sense, vs working with unknown parameters which can never be calculated exactly and are generally thought devices anyway, such as population means, or location parameters for error distributions. These are “unknown parameters”.

Yes. The wiki page made a distinction there but I don’t see why (and there is no source, it was probably just a definition in the back of some stats 101 textbook). It is both “using statistics” to me.

]]>Statistical methods are more useful when both of these are small relative to the measurement error:

A) The systematic error

B) The “ROPE” (Region of Practical Equivalence – Kruschke)

Ie, if your observations could be getting swamped by systematic error anyway you don’t need more than an order of magnitude estimate of the measurement error. Same if there is a wide range of values you would consider functionally equivalent. Also, A and B may not be independent considerations.

]]>the distinction in Bayes vs Frequentist/Sampling Theory usage of “mean” and “variances” etc is in whether we’re talking about things that can be calculated knowing only the numerical values in the dataset and some constants, such as sample means, which are “statistics” in the formal sense, vs working with unknown parameters which can never be calculated exactly and are generally thought devices anyway, such as population means, or location parameters for error distributions. These are “unknown parameters”.

Bayesian analysis operates on probability distributions over parameters, and on data. Sometimes these data can be summarized by a single “sufficient statistic” like the sample mean. So if we’re talking about a Bayesian fit to a normal distribution with known variance, you can get a posterior if instead of sending you a whole dataset, I just send you the sample mean.

But other times, for other models like the cauchy model, you can’t just work with a sufficient statistic (for example, the median is not “sufficient” it doesn’t summarize the inference entirely), instead you need the entire data set.

claiming that “statistics” is the study of the mathematical behavior of numerical functions calculated from samples is *far far* too narrow a definition for the discipline, it’s the kind of definition an abstract probabilist who has never collected real data in their life might give.

You might get away with “statistics is the application of probability to the analysis of real world data” or something, but even that is too narrow in my opinion as it’s possible to do analysis of data without probability theory, as you show Newton and Kepler did, and as is just plotting data with a pencil on graph paper and drawing a line through it with a ruler like we used to do in my High School Physics class. Drawing that line is “statistics” in my opinion, even though we don’t do any formal mathematical calculations to get the line.

]]>Year, Ascension, Inclination, Perihelion, NearSun, logNearSun, DatePerihelion, NodePerihelion, Direction

1531, 19.25.0, 17.56.0, 1.39.00, 56700, 9.753583, 1531.08.24.21.18.5, 107.46.00, retro

1607, 20.21.0, 17.20.0, 2.16.00, 58680, 9.768490, 1607.10.16.03.50.0, 108.05.00, retro

1682, 21.16.3, 17.56.0, 2.52.45, 58328, 9.765877, 1682.09.04.07.39.0, 108.23.45, retro

From that we can see these values are similar, but not exactly so. He says:

And, indeed, there are many things which make me believe that the comet which Apian observed in the year 1531, was the same with that which Kepler and Longomontanus took notice of and described in the Year 1607, and which I myself have seen return, and observed in the year 1682.

All the elements agree, and nothing seems to contradict this my opinion, besides the inequality of the periodic revolutions. Which inequality is not so great neither, as that it may not be owing to physical causes. For the motions of Saturn is so disturbed by the rest of the planets, especially Jupiter, that the periodic time of that planet is uncertain for some whole days together. How much therefore will a comet be subject to such like errors, which rises almost four times higher than Saturn, and whole velocity, tho increased but a very little, would be sufficient to change its orbit, from an elliptical to a parabolical one… Hence I dare venture foretell, that it will return again in the year 1758.

So Halley is most concerned about systematic errors, not statistical errors. Later he goes on to mention some other observations that *“are too rude and unskillful, for anything of certainty to be drawn from them, in so nice a manner.”* It isn’t clear to me how he came to that conclusion.

I would say that the orbital elements are statistics I guess.

]]>https://archive.org/stream/synopsisofastron00hall#page/n1/mode/2up

You can see there are slight differences between the predictions and the observations, but they get called “trifling” (page 17). I just wouldn’t call what is going on here “statistics”.

]]>If you can read some of their work and point out where you see statistics being used that could help. Galileo and Haley would probably be a good examples of statistics free science too.

]]>One perhaps important feature that gets left out by the cartoon is they are better though as phases rather separate activities and everything involves a bit of each and the relative weights change as inquiry proceeds.

]]>or at least someone paying attention should have been likely to make the correct assessment about the good. if you clearly state in your advertising “this electronic device has a number of known security vulnerabilities and sends pictures of your naked children to pornographers” but you bought it anyway … buyer beware can apply. surprisingly few devices have that warning though, even though it may be true for MOST IP cameras these days for example.

]]>Your original post reminded me of me about 10 years ago ago when I lost my Scientist appointment and moved into a regulatory agency that publicly claims to be science based. A simple definition of science is what scientists do. I think artists have it right – once an artist always an artist. It’s just a way of thinking that one should not lose just because of what they currently doing as a day job.

Now, I felt bad for the first few years but got over it with time. Most of us? don’t get thrown out of the fold but rather instead of publishing papers we comment on blogs, instead of presenting at meetings we (try to ask) scientifically profitable questions etc. I have also found that by attending even one meeting every year or so you can keep a number of colleagues as colleagues.

Also, there can be real advantages being outside academia and adjunct university appointments are easy to get if you want them. Also, your citation counts continue to increase as more and more people claim they have read your papers (perhaps just to please journal reviewers).

Hope you stay in touch here.

]]>Anoneuoid says:

October 21, 2019 at 4:53 pm

Is there a stats 101 class that starts off with eyeballing the data as an example of statistics?

Happily, yes!https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00031305.2018.1505657

Figure 1 (which I assume was what you are referring to) shows a histogram and attempt to explain the sampling distribution of the mean. This is statistics (ie, it uses the concept of a mean).

I meant plot theoretically predicted values vs observed values and “eyeball” the fit to see if it was good enough. Imagine you are Kepler comparing your laws to Brahe’s data and no one really used statistics at the time.

* As an aside, the solution to poorly reproducible studies is to simply make replicating each others work a standard practice. People will quickly figure out what needs to be recorded, etc to allow others to repeat what they did. It has nothing to do with statistics like this survey apparently suggests:

In the previously mentioned poll on the reproducibility crisis, the number one factor needed for boosting reproducibility in science, cited by just over 50% of those surveyed, was “better understanding of statistics.”.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00031305.2018.1505657

]]>First, I am amazed, although I really should not be, in the interest in figuring out who I am. I didn’t think at all about it – neither the idea of staying anonymous nor the idea of being more specific. It’s a good reminder that the message is always interpreted in light of who the messenger is (or who we think they are). With that, I will say that Dalton had it right and, with that, I must now say that I wrote this in my personal capacity and that the views I expressed and am about to express do not reflect that of my current or former agencies. I guess that is the real reason for developing a habit of anonymity – as a government or United Nations employee one generally has to be very careful what is said publicly.

I estimate, from the timing of replies, that most discussants are in North America, and this is something to consider. Is that a reflection of who reads the blog or of the culture of commenting? Is perspective described in the discussion representative of the larger scientific / statistical perspective?

So that brings me to point two, which I never thought would be the subject of the conversation generated by this essay but I am so happy that it is. Statistics versus science! A good reason to write something down and share it with people who don’t know you is to uncover your own assumptions. And I assumed we all basically agreed on the following: statistics is the backbone of science. By that I mean statistics, the discipline, and not statistics, a collection of numbers.

In some groups, sure, there is the perception that statistics is the process of correctly selecting a procedure from a series of pull-down menus or the act of model building and fitting or the act of testing. But here?! I definitely have another essay to write! For now, let me just respond to the first comment: “It is weird how she keeps saying “science and statistical thinking”, as if they must always go together and are of equal importance. Statistics is just another minor tool that scientists may (but not must) use.” It is not weird! And, I fully, as in 100% +/- 0% disagree with the 2nd sentence! Statistics is the process of making correct inference from observation. Science is the structured process of making observations to learn about the world. Statistical thinking starts from asking a well-formulated question and has, as a foundation, the consideration of which observations to make and then to what population one can make inference from those observations. My question above (previous paragraph) is statistical in nature. Sampling Theory is statistical (right? We all agree on this I hope) and, furthermore, accurately communicating the correct inference is clearly part of statistical thinking (this blog reflects statistical thinking and the great writing on fivethirtyeight.com is statistical thinking). Any inference that gets made correctly and then communicated and applied incorrected is clearly a failure, in large part, of statistical thinking.

Science without statistics? Natural history, archeology (at times) and there are a few more. Sometimes people say “qualitative research” or “focus groups” are not statistical. Ridiculous. There are no calculations but there is a need for correctly making and communicating inference from observations and for understanding the inferential implications of what is being observed. There are activities in the statistical discipline that don’t necessarily feed into science (as in a structured way to learn about the world from observations) but they too are few. The biggest errors made in science, I would argue, are from a failure to incorporate statistical thinking, which is, as I said, the backbone of the whole enterprise.

And my third point, is just to note that I was not really unhappy in my past nor particularly caught up in the metrics. I was unsatisfied despite being successful-enough. I was aiming at some sort of sarcasm and a description of the gap between on-the-ground impact and impact-factor (that was good right?). Happily, I did not judge my success by the number of pages in my CV. It was intended as a joke reminiscent of the old jokes about the value of a PhD dissertation being measured by far down the stairs it went when it was thrown. That was back in the day when one could envision a dissertation as being produced on paper. Sigh – I have some communication work to do. I really enjoyed the comments that better described the true purpose of science.

Anyway, I was trying to create a picture of a world in which we all share a set of connections, norms of behaviors, indications of success (ridiculously encapsulated in the metrics) but in which we all talk to each other – mostly. It’s not so much that I am no longer in academia as that I am no longer in “the fold” where we all sort of agree on how things get done. At the next 20 meetings I will attend, often on official statistics, indicators of sustainable development, data collection in the field, there is unlikely to be anyone who has ever heard of Andrew Gelman. Right? It seems like a small world but that is because we all mostly stay inside a small world.

Last and then I should go back to the meeting that I snuck out of to write this, thanks! I have already heard privately from folks who have made or are considering making similar choices. And thanks for encouraging me to write my “Essay on why statistical thinking is at the heart of everything we think we know” or some such. And for the place where surprising and interesting conversations are nearly a guarantee.

p.s. for this entire comment which was written without long hours of editing and angsting, please just consider a final statement of something like “for almost every mu”. Yes, you can probably think of a counter-example to something I wrote but if I defined everything perfectly and added a million disclaimers, I would be a lawyer and that is not a career transition I am prepared to consider.

]]>October 21, 2019 at 4:53 pm

Is there a stats 101 class that starts off with eyeballing the data as an example of statistics?

Happily, yes!https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00031305.2018.1505657 ]]>