All Statistics are Wrong; Some Statistics are Useful

Daniel Kaplan & Nicholas Horton
USCOTS May 16, 2013

Project MOSAIC with support from NSF DUE-0920350

Addressing the Needs of Our Students

What do our students need to know to make informed decisions?

  • Personal decisions — e.g. medical, financial
  • Professional decisions — e.g. what skills to seek

What broad skills will our students need?

  • In the workplace
  • In interpreting the news
  • In relating to scientific findings

What is the bottleneck for our students?

  • Not finding a p-value

The World of Data

Huge amounts of data are being generated

  • Outside of experimental settings
  • Often without a design

The World of Data

Huge amounts of data are being generated

  • Outside of experimental settings
  • Often without a design

Students need to be prepared for a world in which:

  • The economy is more invested in drawing useful conclusions from data than ever before
  • Science is more driven by large amounts of data
  • Personal decisions — medical, educational — connect with the research literature

The World of Data

Huge amounts of data are being generated

Students need to be prepared for a new world

Individuals and the media believe that data is knowledge

  • They want to know how to extract useful knowledge from data
  • They generally are not aware of the limitations of observational data

Work and Communication

Work is based in teams

  • Collaboration, evaluation, specialization
  • The model of exchanged notes (e.g. email) has broken down

Work and Communication

Work is based in teams

  • Collaboration, evaluation, specialization
  • The model of exchanged notes (e.g. email) has broken down

Publication is instant

  • Old model: Get data, draft, redraft, publish
  • New model: Get data, draft, publish, comment, revise, publish, new data and comment, revise and update, publish, …

Work and Communication

Work is based in teams

  • Collaboration, evaluation, specialization
  • The model of exchanged notes (e.g. email) has broken down

Publication is instant

  • Old model: Get data, draft, redraft, publish
  • New model: Get data, draft, publish, comment, revise, publish, new data and comment, revise and update, publish, …

Topics are more complex

  • From gene to genomics
  • From inventory to logistics
  • From treatment to medical systems

Technology Changes. We Change with It.

Arithmetic became part of the university curriculum in medieval times: the “Quadrivium”

  • Improved notation: from Roman numerals to Arabic
  • Improved algorithms: place based with a zero
  • Improved technology: the slate and pencil
  • Increased need: double-entry book-keeping and complex commerce

Now it's elementary

Arithmetic in 1508

Computation is Essential

The need to compute with data has increased dramatically.

What do people need to know about computing?

  • The organization of data
  • A basis for learning what else they need to know about computing

But who is teaching computing?

Everyone teaches narrowly to their purposes:

  • Computer scientists and programming
  • Mathematicians and computer algebra
  • Statistics and p-values

Statistics is Essential to Critical Thinking

Laboratory Skills

  • Traditional motivation (e.g. Fisher's “Techniques”)
  • Now available by software

Statistical Concepts

  • Evidence from Data
  • Covariation and Adjustment
  • Inference about causation

Trends in the evolving world position the concepts of statistics more centrally than ever

  • But these changes have not been driven by statistics

Our Intellectual and Pedagogical Model

Still rooted in the needs of the laboratory and in the pedagogy of traditional mathematics

  • An interest in provable statements and traditional curricula
  • “The Ptolemaic Curriculum” of t-tests and tables
  • “No causation without experimentation”

What Do You Think?

You have a handout.

  • Draw a star by points you agree with and an X through points you disagree with

  • Feel free to list other trends you think are important and should inform the design of statistics education

Take a Couple of Minutes

Talk to your neighbors!

The reason we ask …

Should We be the Agents of Change?

  • If not now, when?
  • If not us, who?

If we are not the agents of change, who will be?

There are other points of view ...

  • The computer scientists should teach computation
  • Pedagogy should follow historical development: ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny
  • Statistics receiving appropriate status a peer of the classical disciplines
  • There is only so much we can do. Others have to step up to the plate as well
  • We will need more resources to do …

What can we do?

Let's start by looking at where we are.

Then we can decide if this leads where we want to be.

Iconic Graphics of Stats Education