When you do applied statistics, you’re acting like a scientist. Why does this matter?
When you do applied statistics, you form hypotheses, gather data, run experiments, modify your theories, etc. Here, I’m not talking about hypotheses of the form “theta = 0” or whatever; I’m talking about hypotheses such as, “N=200 will be enough for this study” or “Instrumental variables should work on this problem” or “We can safely use the normal approximation here” or “We really need to include a measurement-error model here” or “The research question of interest is unanswerable from the data we have here; what we really need to do is . . .”, etc. Existing treatments of statistical practice and workflow (including in my own textbooks) do not really capture the way that the steps of statistical design, data collection, analysis, and decision making feel like science. We discuss the implications of this perspective and how it can make us better statisticians and data scientists.