Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Article Update - For Today’s Graduate, Just One Word: Statistics

On Monday I chatted with a friend of mine about data mining. She's a brilliant woman, always makes me laugh, and these days she's swamped working on her PhD dissertation.  She studies Psychometrics at Columbia University, a field that involves the study of measurement instruments and procedures, and a field that requires proficient data analysis.

She pointed me to this NY Times article from last month, and I think there are some interesting statements in it worth noting.

excerpts from... For Today's Graduate, Just One Word: Statistics
New York Times
Published Aug 5, 2009

"I keep saying that the sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians," said Hal Varian, chief economist at Google. "And I'm not kidding."

The rising stature of statisticians, who can earn $125,000 at top companies in their first year after getting a doctorate, is a byproduct of the recent explosion of digital data.

And the digital surge only promises to accelerate, rising fivefold by 2012, according to a projection by IDC, a research firm.

Yet data is merely the raw material of knowledge. "We're rapidly entering a world where everything can be monitored and measured," said Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Digital Business. "But the big problem is going to be the ability of humans to use, analyze and make sense of the data."

They are certainly welcomed in the White House these days. "Robust, unbiased data are the first step toward addressing our long term economic needs and key policy priorities," Peter R. Orzag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, declared in a speech in May.

It is the size of the data sets on the Web that opens new worlds of discovery.

"The key is to let computers do what they are good at, which is trawling these massive data sets for something that is mathematically odd," said Daniel Gruhl, an I.B.M. researcher whose recent work includes mining medical data to improve treatement. "And that makes it easier for humans to do what they are good at --explain those anomalies."

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