Statisticians: Spot-on Election Predictions and So Much More

Contributions Span A (Agriculture) to Z (Zoology) and Everything Between


ALEXANDRIA, Va., Nov. 14, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- While statisticians Nate Silver, Drew Linzer and others deserve plaudits for their uncanny accuracy in predicting last week's presidential election, statisticians contribute in many other critical areas that help improve the lives of Americans by ensuring their safety, protecting their health and prolonging their life, says American Statistical Association (ASA) President Robert N. Rodriguez.

"We tip our hats to Nate, Drew and their colleagues for their incredible accuracy in predicting the outcome of the presidential election," says Rodriguez, who is the senior director of statistical research and development at SAS Institute, Inc. in Cary, N.C. "Their collective success is an excellent example of how statisticians across the country are helping to solve the many vexing problems and challenges confronting our country and the world."

In addition to political science, statisticians work in medicine, economics, public health, agriculture, business analytics, law enforcement, weather forecasting, government, consulting and many other scientific and business fields. They work in industry, research organizations, government agencies, academia and some of the most successful and recognizable firms in the country, such as GE, Capital One, Google and Facebook.

"As our nation and our world become more and more quantitative, many companies and government agencies depend on data to make decisions that could not be made otherwise," says Rodriguez. "Statisticians use their quantitative abilities and statistical knowledge to find answers in areas normally characterized by uncertainty."

Here is a sampling of the many areas in which statisticians are making significant contributions to improving the quality of life for all Americans:

  • In the biopharmaceutical industry, statisticians are intimately involved in every step of creating a new drug—from the discovery phase, to development, to approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Their statistical analyses in pre-clinical research and clinical trials ensure that a new drug is safe and effective for human use.
  • In health care, statisticians are helping to develop personalized medicine, the relatively new practice of tailoring a patient's medical treatment—drugs, biologic products, medical devices and surgical procedures—to his or her genetic predisposition.
  • In agriculture, statisticians are designing experiments and analyzing data that are increasing the yields of the world's agriculture system.
  • In businesses that use data to develop innovative products and services, statisticians are helping to develop sophisticated algorithms that run the Internet search engines and other web services at Google, Bing and Yahoo.
  • In government, statisticians at the U.S. Census Bureau conduct the decennial count of the country's population. Census data are used for realigning congressional districts; identifying where to build new schools, hospitals and transportation networks; determining what government services are needed by the population; and much more.
  • In policy-making, statisticians provide high-quality data that policymakers use to set stock trading rules at the Securities and Exchange Commission; establish air, water and soil purity standards at the Environmental Protection Agency; and monitor the economic health of our country and its people at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis and other economic monitoring agencies.

"Statistics—the science of learning from data, and of measuring, controlling and communicating uncertainty—is much more than the numbers on the sports pages of your newspaper," says ASA Executive Director Ronald L. Wasserstein, a statistician and former statistics professor at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan. "Statistics is ubiquitous in our lives today—it ensures the quality of the products we buy, helps companies identify and market the products we need, protects us from terrorists and so much more. Statisticians like Silver, Linzer and thousands of others are truly making life better, richer and safer for us all."

Additionally, because our society is becoming increasingly data-rich and data-dependent, demand for statisticians is growing considerably. A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute predicts that the U.S. will need between 140,000 and 190,000 more professionals with expertise in statistical methods by 2018. "The career opportunities in the field of statistics have never been greater or more exciting," notes Wasserstein.

For more information:

Jeffrey A. Myers
Office: (703) 684-1221, Ext. 1865; Cell: (540) 623-7777

About the American Statistical Association

Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, the American Statistical Association is the world's largest community of statisticians and the second-oldest continuously operating professional society in the United States. For more than 170 years, the ASA has supported excellence in the development, application and dissemination of statistical science through meetings, publications, membership services, education, accreditation and advocacy. Its members serve in industry, government and academia in more than 90 countries, advancing research and promoting sound statistical practice to inform public policy and improve human welfare. For additional information about the American Statistical Association, please visit the ASA website at or call (703) 684-1221.

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