Today is World Statistics Day!

That’s right! You probably didn’t even know there was such a thing as World Statistics Day, but that’s because there hasn’t ever been one. Until today! The UN has declared 20/10/2010 an international day to recognize the important role of official statistics and to raise awareness of the professionalism and integrity of national statisticians all over the globe. In Canada, of course it’s hard to NOT think about the resignation of the head of Statistics Canada over the removal of the mandatory long form of the census. I think it was the right move, and I still hope that the long form will be reinstated.

(To read more about the Census debate, see a nice list of articles here).

The UN does have an official site for World Statistics Day, with more information about why this day came to be, and links to international events.

Official statistics aside, I think WSD is a great time to think about all the ways that data is used in our world, and how statisticians (or at least folks who champion good statistical sense) can help navigate some of the complexities of associations, causalities, and risk. We statisticians don’t always do the best job of explaining just what it is we do, or providing enough justification for

I highly recommend picking up a book or two on the role of probability in our everyday lives; it’s mind-boggling how skewed our perceptions of probabilities and risk are (the gambling industry depends on the general populace not understanding risk all that well), so here are a couple of books to consider. I’ve read the first (I’m happy to lend out my copy), and the other two are high on my reading list (after I finish The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, which is slowly reconstructing the way I think about the world, so I recommend that one too).

Maria’s Recommendations:

  • Risk by Dan Gardner
  • Struck by Lightning by Jeffrey Rosenthal (if you EVER get a chance to hear Jeff give a talk to the general public, GO. He is one of the most engaging and entertaining speakers in any discipline. And not bad on the harmonica.)
  • Numbers Rule Your World by Kaiser Fung (and check out his blog by the same name, and sister blog Junk Charts)

Besides, statisticians are sexy! The NYTimes says so! Ok, they don’t say WE’RE sexy (there is not, to my knowledge, a Statisticians Swimsuit calendar out), but that our skill set is only going to become more and more valuable as the amount of data being stored and generated (in SO many contexts) is increasing.

So go hug your favorite statistician, maybe ask him or her a little about what they do and why it’s important, and buy them some chocolate (especially if your favorite statistician is me!).  And (for bonus points), tell them that the average statistician is just mean. 😛

And please don’t run for the hills if you meet someone new who says they’re a statistician… we know you had a bad experience in your intro stats course, but it still hurts our feelings when you make a lemon face and start checking the room for the closest exit…

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