The Role of Statistics in Data Science – An ASA statement

By Ronald Wasserstein posted 10-01-2015 14:32


The American Statistical Association (ASA) Board today released a statement on The Role of Statistics in Data Science. As ASA President David Morganstein stated in the accompanying press release, “Through this statement, the ASA and its membership acknowledge that data science encompasses more than statistics, but at the same time also recognize that statistical science plays a critical role in the fast-growing field. It is our hope the statement will reinforce the relationship of statistics to data science and further foster mutually collaborative relationships among all key contributors in data science.”  (See the Amstat News article on this statement, here.)

The statement says statistics is foundational to data science—along with database management and distributed and parallel systems—and its use in this emerging field empowers researchers to extract knowledge and obtain better results from big Data and other analytics projects. The statement also encourages maximum and multifaceted collaboration between statisticians and data scientists to maximize the full potential of data science.

The statement concludes with these sentences:

The American Statistical Association (ASA) is well positioned to help formulate discussion around the role of statistics in data science, to navigate the way forward in this quickly evolving environment, and to provide forums for communication and collaboration among data scientists, including statisticians and non-statisticians alike. The ASA aims to facilitate collaboration between statisticians and other data scientists and thus enable them to achieve more than they could on their own.

My intent in this blog entry is to let you know about ASA efforts to facilitate further collaboration between statisticians and other data scientists.  In the works are the following (and more):

  • Incorporation of data science discussions at the Conference of Statistical Practice (CSP), including a breakfast meeting with business and industry leaders to discuss issues in statistics and data science.

  • More inclusive language in our publications regarding data science

  • A workshop of biostatistics and statistics department chairs to better equip them to deal with the many challenges and opportunities of the emergence of data science (pending securing of funding)

  • Profiles on data scientists  through our  This Is Statistics campaign, starting with this one of Shannon Cebron

  • Securing funding to prepare undergraduates who will be going to work in data science with good training in statistics.

  • A workshop to discuss data science curricula for community colleges (pending securing of funding)

  • Teacher workshops (high school statistics teachers) to develop understanding of data science

  • A new award for the best paper in “Statistical Analysis and Data Mining: The ASA Data Science Journal” has been created and will be widely promoted.

  • The second Women in Statistics Conference will become the Women in Statistics and Data Science Conference 

These efforts will be in addition to ongoing efforts at the ASA, which include:

  • Q&As in Amstat News with new undergraduate data science programs: July 2015, August 2015.

  • Meetings with key officials at the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy about the role of statistics in data science and, more generally on the benefits of further engagement of statisticians

  • Meetings with industry leaders in data science

  • The arrangement of a message from White House Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil to JSM attendees

  • Support of ASA DataFest

  • The Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM) has been a forum for data science research and education issues and will continue to welcome data scientists and data science talks.

We look forward to your feedback on the statement and these initiatives.  Please use the comments feature of this blog, or email me at