Director STATS.org
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D
Professor, George Mason University

Statistical Advisory Board

Karla Ballman Ph.D
Division Chief, Weill Cornell Medicine

Andrew Bray Ph.D
Assistant Professor, Reed College

Andrea Foulkes Sc.D
Professor, Mount Holyoke College

Giles Hooker Ph.D
Associate Professor, Cornell University

Peter Imrey Ph.D
Professor, Cleveland Clinic

Jenna Krall Ph.D
Assistant Professor, George Mason University

Michael Lavine Ph.D
Professor, UMass Amherst

Patrick McKnight Ph.D
Associate Professor, George Mason University

Regina Nuzzo Ph.D
Associate Professor, Gallaudet University

Kristin Sainani
Associate Professor, Stanford University

Tian Zheng Ph.D
Associate Professor, Columbia University

 

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: there are lies, damned lies, and…

STATS began life in 1993 as an attempt to point out that statistical knowledge was essential to understanding the world; and as we relied on the news media for so much knowledge about the world, it was vital that journalists understood how to interpret statistics and report them accurately. Hence, the name of our newsletter: VitalStats.

Scroll forward to 2004 and STATS had become an affiliate of George Mason University; the newsletter had become a website, STATS.org. Several other things had changed too: how could we expect journalists to report statistics accurately when it was increasingly clear that scientists and researchers were themselves getting them wrong? Scientists were increasingly questioning the rigor of scientific research—experimental design, statistical reporting, reproducibility and research integrity. And they did so right at the moment when the world seemed to be taking a “quantitative leap” forward into prosperity without end.

That this turned out to be a financial leap backward in 2008 showed how numbers, like the waxen wings of Icarus, could melt and fall apart. We all had faith in numbers, but did we understand what they meant?

Now, everything is becoming a data point, and everything is becoming searchable and analyzable. Instead of hypotheses seeking data, billions of data points seek hypotheses. As we once looked to the stars, we now look to databases to reveal new truths about the universe and our place within it.

Statistics is the only way to hold this new empiricism accountable; statistics is—in our information age—the new journalism. Which is, presently, a problem. If you are a statistician you are unlikely to engage in journalism in a serious way, and if you are a journalist you are unlikely to engage in statistics in a serious way.

The logic of the situation says collaborate—and here we are, with the third incarnation of STATS. It is now a project of Sense About Science USA, a non partisan, non profit based in Brooklyn, New York, in collaboration with the American Statistical Association. We aim to scale the basics, to provide guidance and practical help, and to ascend to more complex problems in analysis and research integrity (if you want more of our thoughts on journalism and statistics and what we believe, click here). We are also focused on producing statistical workshops for news organizations and academic journals. All editorial decisions are made by Sense About Science USA with input from the STATS advisory committee.

We take the issue of conflicts of interest very seriously, that is why each member of the STATS advisory committee has signed a conflict of interest clause.

A note on funding: STATS.org is run by Sense About Science USA; it is funded grants from the Searle Freedom Trust and a donation from the American Statistical Association. Sense About Science USA is funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and donations from members of the public. Sense About Science USA does not accept industry funding or support. Sense About Science USA is wholly independent of any university, society, or other organization.

STATS.org is a statistical literacy project run by Sense About Science USA in collaboration with the American Statistical Association. Sense About Science USA is a nonprofit (501c3) based in Brooklyn, New York. We work from the back of a bakery and cafe. We don’t have fancy offices; we put our money into doing; every little bit helps. Donate here.

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Contact us here.

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