JSM 2013 – Monday

August 6, 2013

(This article was first published on Statistical Research » R, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

I am currently attending the 2013 Joint Statistical Meeting in Montreal. I will try to share a few if the things that I take away each day.


Last night (Monday) I attended the JSM keynote speaker with Nate Silver and it proved to be a very interesting discussion.  Silver is best known for his work on http://www.fivethirtyeight.com.  His speech was good and focused on the journalistic component of statistics.  He shared that, in his opinion, statisticians should blog and contribute to journalism.  He also added, though it’s a matter of personal opinion, and I don’t agree, that a statistician should get a few years of hands on work before going on for an advanced degree.  I’m of the philosophy that you just do it all at once, otherwise you might find yourself in a position where, for one reason out another, you simply can’t go back to school.

I think Silver gave the quote of the conference.  Silver was asked his opinion on the difference between Data Scientist and Statistician.  He response was, “Data Scientist is just a sexed up version of Statistician”. He then added that they are effectively redundant and just do good work and call yourself whatever you want.

The question was also asked during three Q&A portion why he feels election exit polls should not be trusted.  I disagree with Silver on this point.  He feels that exit polls are wrong and his arguments include the sample design of the exit poll (cluster design).  His argument was that a cluster design increases the Margin of Error.  This is a true statement but it misses the whole point of sample design and the fact that the exit poll uses a 99.9% confidence level to call a race. Which, that alone, increases the Margin of Error.  This is due to news networks not being in the business of calling races wrong and looking foolish.  Exit polls serve their purpose and have ultimately been quite accurate in calling races.  Exit polls also serve the purpose to help give context to why a candidate won or lost.

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