28.11.13

Statistics Views - Summit

For a couple of days, the great and good of planet earth's statistics academics and closely associated players
came together to take stock on the past, present and future.  All as part of the International Year of Statistics, and hosted by our own Royal Statistical Society (11-12 November 2013).

So a mixture of presentations, workshops and discussion.  Much like a conference, but very efficiently high level.  The subject diversity was huge and very technical too.  Here's my key generic messages from all of that.

Collaboration is key. A much stronger emerging collaboration between disciplines, and even between disciplines.  Add a call to "divide and conquer" as approaches to big problems need breaking down for the solutions, then building up the solutions.

Big data.  It's not just big it's granular and partial ("missingness").  To that I would add "now" and "open".  So big, open, now, granular and partial.  Potentially a new scientific paradigm.

Numeracy Paradox.  Recognising different reading ages and languages, maybe we need to explicitly target different numeracy levels.

Transparent Representation.  A clear desire for informed and impartial.  Prof. David Spiegelhalter's always so very engaging and eloquent here.  The example of the high profile unemployment figure which increased by 34k, with the appendix small print which gives an error rate of +/-87k, which means it could in fact have gone down.

Graphics over numbers.  Some pioneering representation of statistical risk, especially around breast cancer, which both avoids probability and an overall judgement, just presents both pro's and con's graphically - icon arrays and frequency trees.  Breaking new ground here, and can be slow going.  It's make your own mind up based on your own circumstances and  what's important to you.

Now over future.  Communicating the risk to life is evolving.  Rather than describing the risk of various heath issues as effective length of life, implicitly focussed on lost time at the end of life, the ideas now is to measure the current health age of body components.  So you might well be 40, but as a smoker your lungs have are already 50. It's about the power of now and accelerating through life, ageing faster.... that cigarette ages your lungs and extra 15 minutes right now....

Anecdotal Reasoning.  Broad aspiration to reduce that all round.

And the prize for greatest technical phrase goes to super polynomial hyperbolic relaxations, closely followed by  The Bag of little bootstraps".

A scientific paper will come in due course, and designed as a lobbying tool for more stats skills too.