## How often do you use statistics?

For the discussion of the sciences. Physics problems, chemistry equations, biology weirdness, it all goes here.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Moderators General, Prelates

### How often do you use statistics?

Given the diversity of fields on this board, I'm quite curious to see to what degree you or your colleagues use statistical analytical methods for your research. They're pretty well essential in ecology and wildlife biology, and are used to some degree in most non-theoretic quantitative studies.

Posts: 168
Joined: Fri May 01, 2009 9:03 pm UTC
Location: (Previously) Montana State University--Bozeman, Montana.

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

Personally, not so often as I'm not taking any experimental physics at the moment and instead get to play with theoretical quantum stuff. On the other hand, the basic ideas of probability are part of statistics, so I might be lieing and in fact use it regularly.

In the realm of physics, theres plenty of less trivial statistics in the world of statistical mechanics (which spawns thermodynamics, but you can do thermo without knowledge of stats), and the experimentalists are hopefully always using it to give suitable error bars. Pretty much every science needs to collect experimental data, and so they'd all use it plenty in that regard for any real research. The only ones who might be able to get away from it entirely is perhaps pure mathematicians, but then they're the sort to potentially be deriving the statistical methods in the first place.

Dopefish

Posts: 753
Joined: Sun Sep 20, 2009 5:46 am UTC
Location: The Well of Wishes

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

I'm in a theoretical biology / nano-particle simulation stuff / computational group, so I do end up using a bit of statistics. However, just about all of it is pretty basic - just enough to compute error bars, averages, spreads, et cetera.
"When your work speaks for itself, don't interrupt." - H.J. Kaiser
رات دن گردش میں ہیں سات آسماں
ہو رہیگا کچھ نہ کچھ گھبرائیں کیا
(غالب)

raike

Posts: 236
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2008 10:25 pm UTC

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

I use statistics all the time for my error bars in my experiments (I do most of my stuff in nuclear physics), as well as modelling & calculations of physical systems (e.g. can't predict what one radium nucleus will do, but a mol behaves pretty predictably).
cemper93 wrote:Dude, I just presented an elaborate multiple fraction in Comic Sans. Who are you to question me?

yurell

Posts: 2670
Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 2:19 am UTC
Location: Australia!

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

I'm a molecular biologist and use stats fairly often. Mostly simple stuff like t-tests, chi square, some basic anova.
qetzal

Posts: 777
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 12:54 pm UTC

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

They use statistics quite a lot in the papers I read which are all to do with medical science fields (immunology, physiology, etc).
“When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.” - Mark Twain

Angua
Don't call her Delphine

Posts: 3500
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:42 pm UTC
Location: UK/St. Kitts and Nevis Occasionally, I migrate to the US for a bit

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

Biostatistician/epidemiologist grad student here, so... it's about 90% of what I do.
miedvied

Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2011 9:16 pm UTC

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

I have a degree in applied mathematics and I work at a national statistical organisation. I use stats ... surprisingly rarely.
pollywog wrote:
Wikihow wrote:* Smile a lot! Give a gay girl a knowing "Hey, I'm a lesbian too!" smile.
I want to learn this smile, perfect it, and then go around smiling at lesbians and freaking them out.

ConMan

Posts: 1323
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2008 11:56 am UTC
Location: Where beer does flow, and men chunder.

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

Tuesday and Friday for one hour each, seeing as I'm doing maths at A level, at least the teacher's hot.
He who will not economize will have to agonize - Confucius
WINNING

Posts: 103
Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 10:29 pm UTC

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

miedvied wrote:Biostatistician/epidemiologist grad student here, so... it's about 90% of what I do.

Really? I'm a full time statistical consulting and 75% of my time is spent in perl and SQL trying to herd data into a useable form so that I can do statistics in the remaining 75% of my time.
Carolan

Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Oct 28, 2011 4:42 am UTC

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

Every hour of every day?

...I do econometrics and statistical programming. I may be an outlier. KF
~Kaiser

Kizyr

Posts: 2070
Joined: Wed Nov 15, 2006 4:16 am UTC
Location: Virginia

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

Carolan wrote:
miedvied wrote:Biostatistician/epidemiologist grad student here, so... it's about 90% of what I do.

Really? I'm a full time statistical consulting and 75% of my time is spent in perl and SQL trying to herd data into a useable form so that I can do statistics in the remaining 75% of my time.

That's cause you're out of school. I still get my data in neat .csv's provided by professors

BTW, wtf is up with data messiness? I mean, really, why the hell can't people ever put things in in something resembling a clean format? I consulted at an academic MD's office and their access DB looked like cocaine-fueled apes threw feces at the keyboard.
miedvied

Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2011 9:16 pm UTC

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

miedvied wrote:BTW, wtf is up with data messiness? I mean, really, why the hell can't people ever put things in in something resembling a clean format? I consulted at an academic MD's office and their access DB looked like cocaine-fueled apes threw feces at the keyboard.

The basic answer is that the data you receive is never really designed for you.

On one end, you have data designed for accounting, tracking, or other purposes. For instance, data at a doctor's office might be designed only for the purpose of looking up accounts and forwarding information to insurance companies. Things like missing values, inconsistent coding methods, etc., might not matter for those purposes. In my experience, data that we get is usually for basic recording purposes, and we have to figure a way to clean and format it to run several different tests (and you never know which ones pan out until you get to the end, meaning a lot of dead-ends in the meantime).

On the other end, even data designed for statisticians is going to involve a lot of cleaning (e.g., data provided by the US Census Bureau, BLS, CDC, etc.). This is because the data has to be designed so that anyone can use it, regardless of the software, operating system, encoding method (like ASCII, EBCDIC, Unicode), etc. Some places are pretty experienced and provide, say, the raw data plus programs to encode it in a dozen different ways, but usually all you'll have is the codebook and data.

The kicker is that the more useful your analysis, the more work is gonna be involved in reshaping the data. If the data is already nice and clean, chances are it's because there are a ton of people who've already done all the analyses possible and squeezed a bunch of info out of the data (which is what you usually deal with while you're a student). If it's some new problem that people haven't tackled before, or if it's all-new data that not many people have checked out yet, then you're more likely to be on your own.

Phew. That was more detail than I though I'd get into... KF
~Kaiser

Kizyr

Posts: 2070
Joined: Wed Nov 15, 2006 4:16 am UTC
Location: Virginia

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

I use statistics every D days, where D is a normally-distributed variable with mean 12 and standard deviation 4, and the lower tail (D < 0) omitted.

Proginoskes

Posts: 309
Joined: Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:07 am UTC
Location: Sitting Down

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

A biochemistry/biophysics masters student, depending on how you define it, I use statistics quite often, or never at all.

As in, all my experiments need error bars, and all work I do is considered alongside the errors given - but I practically never touch it myself, it's an automated function in the programs I use to analyze my data, so I never have to actually think about it, it just calculates the data value for each peak and a nice corresponding error (which occasionally is actually smaller than the data value itself!)

miedvied - raw data is messy, learn python if you want to do it the easy way - the hard way being pasting columns from one .txt file to another for all eternity in the wonderful "a monkey could do this!" style.
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it - Aristotle

A White Russian, shades and a bathrobe, what more can you want from life?

Ulc

Posts: 1303
Joined: Sun Jun 21, 2009 8:05 pm UTC
Location: Copenhagen university

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

Ulc wrote:miedvied - raw data is messy, learn python if you want to do it the easy way - the hard way being pasting columns from one .txt file to another for all eternity in the wonderful "a monkey could do this!" style.

If your raw data is in a table-like structure with the values you are interested in, it is not messy.

The probability that I will use statistics on day X depends on the usage of statistics on all previous days, with decreasing influence for large time differences.
mfb

Posts: 824
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 7:48 pm UTC

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

Ulc wrote:miedvied - raw data is messy, learn python if you want to do it the easy way - the hard way being pasting columns from one .txt file to another for all eternity in the wonderful "a monkey could do this!" style.

If you've a table-like structure, then it's hardly messy; I've found that AWK is pretty good at this sort of text-file in columns thing, and fairly easy to set up and use.
"When your work speaks for itself, don't interrupt." - H.J. Kaiser
رات دن گردش میں ہیں سات آسماں
ہو رہیگا کچھ نہ کچھ گھبرائیں کیا
(غالب)

raike

Posts: 236
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2008 10:25 pm UTC

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

I do reliability calculations for electronic components and model hardware systems in space environments. I swim in statistics but typically only rely on the same few tricks over and over and over again.

Also used a ton of statistics for thesis work. Another tid bit: I've also found it easier to think of quantum mechanics as a "real world" example of statistics. The electron really is in both places at the same time. But you still only have a %50 chance of finding it in one place or the other. Don't fight it. Feel it.
Anaximander

Posts: 40
Joined: Wed Nov 23, 2011 9:24 pm UTC

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

raike wrote:
Ulc wrote:miedvied - raw data is messy, learn python if you want to do it the easy way - the hard way being pasting columns from one .txt file to another for all eternity in the wonderful "a monkey could do this!" style.

If you've a table-like structure, then it's hardly messy; I've found that AWK is pretty good at this sort of text-file in columns thing, and fairly easy to set up and use.

It can easily be, when the dataset becomes large enough.
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it - Aristotle

A White Russian, shades and a bathrobe, what more can you want from life?

Ulc

Posts: 1303
Joined: Sun Jun 21, 2009 8:05 pm UTC
Location: Copenhagen university

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

All the time in my every day life, I look at what information I'm given and I choose an outcome on an system I try to ballance to get myself the things most positive for my life
R3sistance - I don't care at all for the ignorance spreading done by many and to the best of my abilities I try to correct this as much as I can, but I know and understand that even I can not be completely honest, truthful and factual all of the time.
krogoth

Posts: 203
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:58 pm UTC
Location: Australia

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

I'm an Epidemiology graduate student. Essentially every day of my life involves statistics in one form or another, to the point that my home page is the StackExchange statistics site.

Range from very simple summary statistics to survival analysis and some techniques to describe the results of large stochastic simulations.

Posts: 40
Joined: Sun Jan 23, 2011 2:29 am UTC

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

My background is in experimental nanotechnology and nanoscience, and as far as statistical analysis goes, my software gives me error bars, and I don't have to worry about chi-squared tests and all that stuff (honestly, if I needed a chi-squared test to determine the validity of my data, I have done a shit experiment). But, of course, quantum mechanics and statistical thermodynamics are all based on probability, and my research exploits a lot of quantum mechanical features of low-dimensional materials (van Hove singularities, for example), so in that sense, I use lots of statistics (just not directly).
soggybomb

Posts: 22
Joined: Wed Nov 09, 2011 2:46 pm UTC

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

I'm currently taking 2 upper division economics courses, for which stats is a requirement, and we haven't and apparently aren't going to use much beyond some very basic stuff.

I can only assume it gets more complex later, but I'm wondering when and where exactly. I know there are lot of complex economic models, but their accuracy is about on par with average weather reporting. As in unless I'm going to help program the exascale supercomputer that can actually make accurate predictions I'm not sure when truly advanced statistics will actually come in handy for practical purposes.

A lot of economics seems to be more arguing about the theory than actually applying it. But I suppose if the theory were particularly accurate the world would be doing a lot better in terms of efficient material output.
Frenetic Pony

Posts: 81
Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2012 6:31 am UTC

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

A large deal of the papers I've read involving security and risk analysis have a great deal of statistics. This has lead to, on several occasions, having to read through large reports and pulling out the important information and statistics and quickly summarizing it. Is it weird that I enjoyed this process? In presentations I have also been required to find and show relevant statistics, which I also enjoyed (although I was also angered as it appeared that many others didn't do the work and still got decent grades on it).
I'm never sarcastic.

Kick

Posts: 112
Joined: Thu Nov 17, 2011 6:24 am UTC
Location: Pennsylvania

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

It's not weird ... statistics are fun!
cemper93 wrote:Dude, I just presented an elaborate multiple fraction in Comic Sans. Who are you to question me?

yurell

Posts: 2670
Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 2:19 am UTC
Location: Australia!

### Re: How often do you use statistics?

Second year biochemistry grad student here. And I'm becoming increasingly more aware of a lack of statistics understanding, in myself, my fellow grad students and even seniors. It's just not something that is taught/practiced in the master programs around here. Since 2008 however, there's a mandatory course equivalent of a 1/4th semester in statistics, which apparently is despised by many. Ideally I would say that statistics is best used and taught in context of ordinary courses, so that the techniques and way of thinking is gradually introduced over a large period of time.

Anyway, to answer your question. I use statistics maybe 10-25% of my time, depending on how you define "use".
PhDFluff

Posts: 16
Joined: Sun May 22, 2011 2:06 pm UTC