Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Statisticians need marketing

I can't think of too much I would disagree with in Simply Statistics's posting on Statistics/statisticians need better marketing. I'll elaborate on a couple of points:

We should be more “big tent” about statistics. ASA President Robert Rodriguez nailed this in his speech at JSM. Whenever someone does something with data, we should claim them as a statistician. Sometimes this will lead to claiming people we don’t necessarily agree with. But the big tent approach is what is allowing CS and other disciplines to overtake us in the data era.
Apparently, the idea of data mining was rejected by most statisticians about 30 years ago, and it has found a home in computer science. Now data science is growing out computer science, and analytics seems to be growing out of some hybrid of computer science and business. The embracing of the terms "data science" and "analytics" puzzled me for a long time, because these fields seemed to be just statistics, data curation, and understanding of the application. (I recognize now that there is some more to it, especially the strong computer science component especially in big data applications.) I now see the tension between statisticians and practitioners of these related fields, and the puzzlement remains. Statisticians have a lot to contribute to these blooming fields, and we damn well better get to it.

We should try to forge relationships with start-up companies and encourage our students to pursue industry/start-up opportunities if they have interest. The less we are insular within the academic community, the more high-profile we will be. 
Stanford has this down to a business plan. So do some other universities. This trail is being blazed, and we can just hop on it.

It would be awesome if we started a statistical literacy outreach program in communities around the U.S. We could offer free courses in community centers to teach people how to understand polling data/the census/weather reports/anything touching data.
Statistics without borders is a great place to do this. Perhaps SWB needs better marketing as well?