Statistics: The next generation

  • Straf M
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New technologies benefit our lives in many ways, but they can also bring increased risks, disruptions to our society, and even the malevolence of war. Statisticians can play a critical role in influencing the paths along which technology will take our society. But taking on this role requires changing our discipline, our profession, and our ASA. Change, however, is not an option; if we do not change, then technology may force change on us in detrimental ways. Understanding how to change requires a broader view of statistics as a human activity with a human purpose that must evolve within a social, or human, system. Considered as a technology, statistics is a fundamental and invaluable part of the infrastructure of other sciences. Statistics advances discoveries in other sciences. Universities and foundations must encourage interdisciplinary research as a primary contribution to our field. Our curricula must reflect modern approaches that other sciences require, and students with quantitative talents must be attracted from other disciplines. Statistics should permeate the mathematics curricula at all elementary and secondary levels, and all children should understand variability and uncertainty, how to make sense from data, and the elements involved in making decisions. In industry, we must capitalize on the importance of quality improvement programs to further contributions of statistics. From government, we need timely and accurate statistics that are relevant to the world of the future as well as to today. In particular, we must commit ourselves now to changing our 40-year-old poverty measure and improve access to government statistics with different and stronger ways to protect confidentiality. We must work toward a comprehensive, integrated network of knowledge and information systems for research on individual, social, and organizational change and for decision making by individuals, organizations, and public policy makers at all levels-local, regional, and national. In all of these directions, the ASA must foster and encourage change and, in many cases, lead the way. With the commitment and perseverance of our next generation, statistics can become a leader in the advancement of science and technology to promote human welfare.

Author-supplied keywords

  • American Statistical Association
  • Government statistics
  • Interdisciplinary research
  • Statistics curricula
  • Statistics education
  • Technological change

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  • Miron L. Straf

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