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Why Statistics? POPULAR MEDIA AND SCIENCE PUBLICATIONS SOUND THE DRUM: “BIG DATA” WILL DRIVE OUR Marie Davidian is
future, from translating genomic information into new therapies, to harnessing the Web to William Neal Reynolds
untangle complex social interactions, to detecting infectious disease outbreaks. Statistics is the Professor of Statistics
science of learning from data, and of measuring, controlling, and communicating uncertainty; at North Carolina State
and it thereby provides the navigation essential for controlling the course of scientiﬁ c and soci-
etal advances. This ﬁ eld will become ever more critical as academia, businesses, and govern-
ments rely increasingly on data-driven decisions, expanding the demand for statistics expertise. Statistical Association,
The melding of science and statistics has often propelled major breakthroughs. Last year’s and executive editor
Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the uni-
verse. That discovery was facilitated by sophisticated statistical methods, establishing that the Biometrics
ﬁ nding was not an artifact of imprecise measurement or miscalculations. Statistical methods email@example.com.
also allowed the trial demonstrating that zidovudine reduces the risk of
HIV transmission from infected pregnant women to their infants to be
stopped early, beneﬁ ting countless children. Statistical principles have
been the foundation for ﬁ eld trials that have improved agricultural qual-
ity and for the randomized clinical trial, the gold standard for compar-
ing treatments and the backbone of the drug regulatory system.
Statistics often informs policy development. For example, in the
United States, billions of dollars are allocated to school districts based
on county-speciﬁ c estimates of income and poverty, derived by com-
bining data using statistical methods. In evaluating pollutants, statisti-
cal modeling isolates true associations with illnesses and deaths. Big
Data payoffs can be enormous, but there are many pitfalls. Take the
promise of personalized medicine: Achieving this goal will require the
integration of vast landscapes of genomic, clinical, and related data
from legions of patients. The potential for false discovery looms large.
New statistical methods will be needed to address some of these issues. Similar challenges arise Thomas A. Louis is
from the haystacks of information on social network, time-use, economic, and other activities
that can be mined to beneﬁ t science, business, and society. Close collaboration with statisticians at the Johns Hopkins
is the best way to ensure that critical issues are identiﬁ ed and solutions found.
A dramatic increase in the number of statisticians is required to ﬁ ll the nation’s needs for
expertise in data science. A 2011 report by a private consulting ﬁ rm projected a necessary
increase of nearly 200,000 professionals (a 50% increase) by 2018.* Graduates specializing in Statistics Section (U),
statistics are equipped with skills that allow them to pursue diverse careers, and there has been a
surge in applications for graduate education in these ﬁ elds. But available
places are limited; for example, the ratio of qualiﬁ ed applicants to slots in Society, and former
Online the Johns Hopkins Biostatistics program exceeds 10 to 1. Resources must
be found to expand the number and size of graduate programs.
No amount of statistical intervention can circumvent ﬂ awed subject-
http://scim.ag/ed_6077 matter models or salvage valid conclusions from poorly designed stud-
ies, and even sound statistical analysis may fail to yield straightforward
answers. The future demands that scientists, policy-makers, and the public be able to interpret
increasingly complex information and recognize both the beneﬁ ts and pitfalls of statistical anal-
ysis. It is a good sign that the new U.S. Common Core K-12 Mathematics Standards intro-
duce statistics as a key component in precollege education, requiring that students be skilled
in describing data, developing statistical models, making inferences, and evaluating the conse-
quences of decisions. Embedding statistics in science and society will pave the route to a data-
informed future, and statisticians must lead this charge.
6 APRIL 2012 VOL 336 SCIENCE www.sciencemag.org
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Stigmatisation vue de l’intérieur Témoignage de Lucie Boissinot dans le cadre de la journée de sensibilisation à la détection et au traitement précoce des premières psychoses. ______________________________________________________________ Le pire des maux en ce qui me concerne, c’est la maladie et non la Lorsque mon fils est tombé malade, il m’a été très difficile d