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Former RSS president on statistics and science

David J HAND (10 of 16)_croppedI’ve had the opportunity to hear The Improbability Principle author David Hand speak three times now, most recently at Discovery Summit Europe in Amsterdam. We are featuring this particular talk on Analytically Speaking, Sept. 14, at 1 p.m. ET.

As a child, Hand thought a scientist unearthed dinosaurs before lunch and discovered new planets before dinner. Later, as he entered the final year of his master's program, he decided that with statistics, he’d at least have the advantage of finding a job afterward. He learned more about statistics and decided this was a great way to be an indispensable member of teams of scientists in a variety of areas.

Over the course of Hand’s career, which includes two terms as president of the Royal Statistical Society and his current posts at Winton Capital Management and Imperial College London, his applied research has covered the fields of psychology, medicine, official statistics, finance, astronomy and more.

He explains that the use of statistics is not in the mathematics behind it, but in its ability to help extract information from data. His experience in a wide number of fields is a testament to this.

"Statisticians are the modern equivalent of Victorian explorers," says Hand. "They are there when the discoveries are made."

Sign up to watch the full talk, and you’ll also hear his take on:

  • The advancement of statistics with new applications, bigger data storage and better data capture technology.
  • Why statistics is a language, rather than a set of isolated concepts and methods.
  • The importance of understanding the problem before making statistical choices.
  • Natural data versus human-generated data.
  • The dangers of selection bias.
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