What is Statistical Science?


The process of posing questions and then seeking to answer them by collecting and analyzing suitable data is an essential component of research in a remarkably diverse array of fields. This includes agriculture, medical research, industrial research, forensic science, market research, environmental science, political science and quality assurance. This mode of inquiry also features prominently in the decision making processes of both commerce and government.

The role of the Statistician is to determine, for a given question, the type of data that is needed, the way it should be collected and how it should be analyzed in order to best answer that question.

The data may result from a planned experiment designed to investigate certain specific things. This sort of data, experimental data, is common in such areas as agricultural research. The concern of the Statistician is not just the analysis of the data from someone else's experiment, but is also about designing the experiment in the first place, to ensure that resources are used efficiently and that the questions being asked can be answered by the experiment.

Other types of data arise from observational studies: investigators go out and see what is actually there. Censuses of the population, hospital data bases, Gallup polls, traffic data and consumer data bases are examples of these. Survey and questionnaire design are important issues in many of these examples.



Statistical Science Graduates should have the following


Technical Skills


  • to understand the nature of statistical inference; that is, its scope and limitations and its proper role in the process of scientific investigation,
  • to be able to express a generally posed scientific question as a statistical question,
  • to be familiar with a variety of commonly used techniques and the models underlying them,
  • to be able to recognize the nature of, and to model, the random variation underlying given data,
  • to be conversant with the mathematical underpinning of often-used statistical techniques to the extent of being able to make simple modifications in appropriate situations,
  • in preparing to make inferences about a population based on a sample from it, to be able to decide how to obtain a suitable sample,
  • to be able to provide advice on the design of experiments,
  • to be able to use standard statistical packages to perform statistical calculations,
  • to be able to interpret the the results obtained from standard statistical packages,
  • to be equipped with a variety of graphical techniques for displaying statistical data,
  • to be able to know where to find recently developed statistical methods.


General Skills


  • to think clearly and coherently,
  • to work productively as an individual or in cooperation with others,
  • to be able to complete assigned tasks on schedule,
  • to be able to produce clear and accurate written work.



Employment Opportunities

Statisticians are employed as biometricians (statistical scientists specializing in biology related applications) in government agricultural departments, as biostatisticians (statistical scientists specializing in medical related applications) in government health related departments (e.g., NIH, CDC,...) and as consultants in a number of government, quasi-government and private research firms. Many manufacturing companies also employ statisticians to perform quality control and process control of their products. The research and development units of some larger corporations, larger hospitals and health departments employ statistical consultants. The National Bureau of Standards employs many statisticians in the area of civil statistics, and various government departments in finance and industrial relations areas have statisticians working with economic data. There are opportunities for statisticians to work in quality improvement initiatives within industrial and commercial organizations.


Wei-Min Huang

Last update 01-Jan-96