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Point to ponder on the 16th National Statistics day

Reshmy Krishnakumar Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Point to ponder on the 16th National Statistics day

Few days before, I was attending a function and while introducing myself to one of the attendees, I said that I work as a freelance research statistician. He just thought for a minute, and then in a confused mode asked me what kind of a job I do being a statistician. His question had left me in an ocean of thoughts.

When someone says that he is a doctor, engineer, HR consultant, teacher, nurse, or a chef, we are quite sure about his job and the nature of his work to an extent. But why the job profile of a statistician not known to the majority? Today, June 29th, is the right day for me to answer all those who keeps the same doubt. Today we Indians celebrate as the National Statistics Day.

What is this Statistics Day? By celebrating this day what we really aim at? Every year on June 29th, as an answer to these two questions, in all the celebration events held, its history is told. Today is the birthday of a great Indian Scientist and Statistician Padma Vibhushan Prof. Prasanta Chandra Mahalnobis, the father of Indian Statistics. The day is celebrated in acknowledgement of the remarkable contribution made by P. C. Mahalnobis towards economic planning and statistical development. He is known for the statistical measure, Mahalanobis distance, and he was one among the first Planning Commission of independent India. Every Indian can be proud of his contribution towards nation building through the subject Statistics. He is also the founder of our pride, the Indian Statistical Institute. The role of statistics in the socio-economic planning and policy making of India is not trivial, and for this very reason he seemed to understand the need for this subject to be understood and practiced with utmost importance. The institute is now considered one of the world's leading centers for training and research in Statistics and related subjects. Should we not celebrate the birthday of Padma Vibhushan P C Mahalnobis, who succeeded in his relentless efforts to bring the subject Statistics to this level?

But what I want to tell you today is not these historical truths, but the realities of today, the impact that Statistics have on our daily lives, unknowingly.

What is Statistics? What this subject tells us?

As per the academic definition, it is that branch of science which collects data, analyzes it, draws conclusions from it, and points to a possible answer to some of the hints and questions in front of us. Having said that Statistics is a science, it is an Art too, because decision making is an art in itself and Statistics deals with decision making.

Every decision we make in life depends on several factors. One of them is ‘uncertainty’. It's something that affects an individual and a nation alike. Facing this uncertainty, examining all aspects, while making the right decisions is essential for ultimate success. Tackling such factors is an art in life. The best ways and concepts to help deal this uncertainty are unique to Statistics. When nations do it with experts it is just that we ordinary people do it as part of everyday life without even knowing.

Although the academic definition is a bit intense and deep, Statistics to the public are some calculations, some deliberations, and possibilities. Let me share an interesting thought. When someone comes and stands in front of us, our data collection starts right there. His color, weight, height, hairstyle, manner of speaking and so on are all data. When we get to know them better, when we ask them their name, sometimes their age, place, whether they are studying, working, or who is at home, what are we actually doing? Demographic data collection is happening there. Later, we continue to analyze this data even after that person has left. At the end of it all, we come to some assumptions. We know that whether that person will be a part of our later life is determined by the correct interpretation of those assumptions. Misinterpretations can come at a high price. Exactly similar is the job of a statistician. Let me give you some other examples.

When our mothers take back the cloth put outside to get dried in sun considering the possibility of rain, what she is applying is the probability theory in Statistics. When our fathers, looking at the family expenses for the last 6 months, warn us saying that the expenses are shooting up, what he is using is the Trend analysis in Statistics. The teacher will tell the student who is getting low marks consistently in all the exams till then, that he/she will not pass the final exam. Whatever is the subject being taught by that teacher, she is also using a theory in Statistics there - time series analysis. There are people around us who stops the car little away from the street vendor and walk up to him to buy some things. His assumption that the price of the commodity will increase when the street vendor sees him in costly car also has a place in Statistics - correlation analysis.

The various channels in our country are based on the same statistics. It's just that it's known as rating. It's even based on certain statistics that they decide which advertisement should be played on which timeslot. Thus, we make various applications of the subject Statistics without even knowing it, no matter what area of our daily lives we take.

This is the very same subject that many people are afraid of when they have to study it separately in school and college. What an irony! It's just how you see the Subject. It is only natural that any subject will have a little difficulty in studying it in its scientific way. There are so many of us who sing a good song in a good way. But how many understand its melody and the ups and downs of that melody as per the texts? Don't you have to study a little harder to get that wisdom?

Now, moving from everyday life and into the field of education, statistical study is essential for conducting research on any subject. To authentically present the research findings, they need to be translated into numbers and these numbers are to be put through some concepts and tests in Statistics for any research paper to be considered complete.

Statistics is the basis on which the nations base their actions and policies on ensuring their financial security. They use statistics to assess the situation, allocate available resources to different sectors, make decisions, and forecast the future. To interpret the analysis results based on data collected, we need an experienced statistician. Strategic decisions must be made based on these interpretations and so it should be done very carefully. Special mention should be made of its role and importance in nation building activities in all fields, including health, agriculture, business, administration, commerce, marketing, natural sciences, politics, tourism and sports.

Years before, during my college days, the options to learn statistics as a specialization was the Master courses offered at various universities. Statistics today has a more diverse and broader level of practice. Accordingly, the nature of the courses offered also changed. The concepts and techniques of Statistics applicable are different for different fields. Taking that into consideration, apart from the regular Masters, now we have analytics courses in separate fields as we see Business analytics. Similarly, the application of Statistics in the field of bio paved way to the development of another course and a field of specialization as Biostatistics. The experts are known as Biostatistician.

What we see today is an information driven world. Here information is worth more than money. Therefore, data and statistics play an important role. The biggest breakthrough is the introduction of machine learning into the concepts of Statistics. The term data analysis has been around for a long time now. The combined potential of Statistics and Machine Learning opens to today's generation a new field of job called Data Analytics. To use it effectively you need to have good knowledge of the concepts of Statistics. Even our IITs provide course catering to these needs. The job profiles can vary from Statisticians to Business Analyst, Professor, Risk Analyst, Data Analyst, Content Analyst, Data Scientist, Consultant, Biostatistician, Econometrician and so on.

One of the primary goals of National Statistics Day is to convey the message that the depth, spread and potential of the subject Statistics is important in the modern world. What has been discussed at the National Statistics Day celebrations so far is its history. From today onwards, in the years to come, let the discussion be on its infinite possibilities and the opportunities it opens for our younger generation. When I say, 'I am a Statistician', let the world not ask back, “what is it all about?”

Wishing all the readers of IIK a very informative National Statistics Day.

Reshmy Krishnakumar is a freelance Statistician based in India. She was working with Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) as Research Associate. Having done her post-graduation in Statistics, she worked as lecturer at St.Teresa’s College, Ernakulam, until her relocation to Kuwait to join at Statistics Department, Kuwait University, Khaldiya. As a freelance writer, she is contributing to various magazines, blogs, and websites. Her passion includes classical dance, writing poems in Malayalam and Hindi. While in Kuwait she was an active member of the Writers’ Forum Kuwait, Indian Women In Kuwait (IWIK) and Science International Forum (SIF) Kuwait.
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Express your comment on this article

Balram Srinivasan
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Dear Reshmy,l
A very good article on the role of a statistician which as you rightly mentioned, many do not know. Statistics and Analytics are the tools from which data can be interpreted and analyzed. I remember my late mother often mention about Professor Mahalnobis, and Professor C.R Rao. My mother was their student in ISI way back in late 1950''s in Calcutta.
She then came and worked for SAIL in Durgapur as Chief Statistical officer.
Over the years, the application of statistics in various decisions has increased .
Good article !

J V Subramaniyan
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Wonderful analysis of Statistics ! Inspiring article for younger generations to choose Statistics as their career. Thanks!

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