Statistics: The Need for Integration

March 6, 2011
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I’d like to revisit an issue we covered here, way back in 2007: Statistics: Why Do So Many Hate It?. Recent comments made to me, both in private conversation (“Statistics? I hated that class in college!”, and in print prompt me to reconsider this issue.

I’d like to revisit an issue we covered here, way back in 2007: Statistics: Why Do So Many Hate It?. Recent comments made to me, both in private conversation (“Statistics? I hated that class in college!”, and in print prompt me to reconsider this issue.

One thing which occurs to me is that many people have a tendency to think of statistics in an isolated way. This world view keeps statistics at bay, as something which is done separately from other business activities, and, importantly, which is done and understood only by the statisticians. This is very far from the ideal which I suggest, in which statistics (including data mining) are much more integrated with the business processes of which they are a part.

In my opinion, this is a strange way to frame statistics. As an analog, imagine if, when asked to produce a report, a business team turned to their “English guy”, with the expectation that he did all the writing. I am not suggesting that everyone needs to do the heavy lifting that data miners do, but that people who don’t accept some responsibility for data mining’s contribution to the business process. Managers, for example, who throw up their hands with the excuse that “they are not numbers people” forfeit control over an important part of their business function. It is healthier for everyone involved, I submit, if statistics moves away from being a black art, and statisticians become less of an arcane priesthood.