The year 2013 was celebrated by six international societies as the ‘Year of Statistics.’ It culminated with a gathering of statistical experts in London, where lectures and discussions were held regarding the achievements, challenges, and future direction of the field of statistics.
A report summarizing the conference proceedings is available through World of Statistics. The plain-language report details ways in which ‘the study of uncertainty’ has contributed to different fields. For example, statisticians contributed heavily to the design of the modern randomized controlled clinical trial. They also developed many of the rigorous methods for evaluating the results of such trials. Another health-related application has been the use of statistics in the field of genomics to enable the discovery of biomarkers (genes or other DNA sequences that indicate increased or decreased risk of specific diseases).
The report also details current challenges in the field of statistics. Big data is the major topic here; it is noted that issues of complexity, precision, and privacy must be resolved before the promise of big data can be realized. Concerns about the reproducibility of scientific research and education of statisticians are also raised. Of note to health scientists is current work to update the RCT to make it more flexible and less costly.
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