Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Joint statistical meetings 2013

Every year, the first week of August, we statisticians meet to get our statistics, networking, dancing, and beer on. With thousands in attendance, it's exhausting. I wonder about the quality of statistical work the second week of August.

Each conference seems to have a life of its own, so I tend to reflect on each one. Here's my reflection on this year's:

First, being in Montreal, most of us couldn't use smartphones. Thankfully, Revolution Analytics sponsored free WiFi. They also do great work with R. So we were all for the most part able to tweet.

The quality of talks was pretty good this year, and I've learned a lot. We even had one person describe simulations with a flowchart rather than indecipherable equations, and I strongly encourage that practice.

As a member of the biopharmaceutical section, I was struck by how few people take advantage of our awards. Of course, everybody giving a contributed or topic contributed talks is automatically entered into the best contributed paper competition. But we have a poster competition and student paper competition that have to be explicitly entered, and participation is low. This is a great opportunity.

The highlight of the conference, of course, was Nate Silver's talk, and he delivered admirably. The perhaps thousand statisticians in attendance needed the message: learn to communicate with journalists and teach them numbers need context. I also like his response to the question "statistician or data scientist?" Which was, of course, "I don't care what you call yourself, just do good work."