12.10.13

Statistics Definitions

Statistics is one of those terms which mean different things to different people, even within the profession.   There's good reason for that, given the wide scope from high end methodical development through to National Statistics.     In the simplest of terms a statistic can just be a data item (a datum, the singular of data), through to a number emerging from a statistical technique (such as r-squared in regression).

Source: www.statistics2013.org
Statistics becomes the process around all of that, including the analysis and interpretation.Hence there's not a specific definition in the Royal Statistical Society's new strategy.  The strap line now is data, evidence, decisions.  And "analysis" nearly had a place in there.

However for the International Year of Statistics (2013statistics.org) there's a practical set of definitions which encompass that scope:
  • The science of learning from (or making sense out of) data
  • The theory and methods of extracting information from observational data for solving real-world problems
  • The science of uncertainty
  • The quintessential interdisciplinary science
  • The art of telling a story with [numerical] data
Source: A Career in Statistics: Beyond the Numbers by Gerald Hahn and Necip Doganaksoy:

So broadly the science of collecting and analysing data, and increasingly in so many areas that impact on everyday life.  Again the International Year of Stats has helpfully distil that big picture purpose too, focussing on the increasing government and business appetite for properly data driven decisions across that touch our lives in so many ways.