Happy 2013: The International Year of Statistics

Rafael Irizarry

The ASA has declared 2013 to be the International Year of Statistics and I am ready to celebrate it in full force. It is a great time to be a statistician and I am hoping more people will join the fun. In fact, as we like to point out in this blog, Statistics has already been at the center of many exciting accomplishments of the 21st century. Sabermetrics  has become a standard approach and inspired the Hollywood movie Money Ball. Friend of the blog Chris Volinsky, a PhD Statistician, led the team that won the Netflix million dollar prize. Nate Silver et al. proved the pundits wrong by, once again, using statistical models to predict election results almost perfectly. R has become one the most widely used programming languages in the world. Meanwhile, in academia, the number of statisticians becoming leaders in fields like environmental sciences, human genetics, genomics, and social sciences continues to grow. It is no surprise that stats majors at Harvard have more than quadrupled since 2000 and that statistics MOOCs are among the most popular.

The unprecedented advances in digital technology during the second half of the 20th century has produced a measurement revolution that is transforming the world. Many areas of science are now being driven by new measurement technologies and many insights are being made by discovery-driven, as opposed to hypothesis-driven, experiments. Empiricism is back with a vengeance. The current scientific era is defined by its dependence on data and the statistical methods and concepts developed during the 20th century provide an incomparable toolbox to help tackle current challenges. The toolbox, along with computer science, will also serve as a base for the methods of tomorrow.  So I will gladly join the Year of Statistics’ festivities during 2013 and beyond, during the era of data-driven science.