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May 28, 2014

Statistics and access to government data by scientists and researchers

Professor Ulrich Rendtel is the guest on Analytically Speaking this month.Professor Ulrich Rendtel is the guest on Analytically Speaking this month.I will be interviewing Ulrich Rendtel, Professor of Applied Statistics in the School of Business and Economics at Freie Üniversität Berlin, on this month’s episode of Analytically Speaking.

His work in official statistics and econometrics, in addition to academia, gives him a unique perspective. He is active in the greater statistical community and is advocating for some important efforts, one of which is a paradigm shift in how data in support of official statistics is governed. 

Professor Rendtel believes scientists and researchers should be able to access more data collected by governments. One of the forces that drives statistics is data, how it’s formatted, and how it’s made accessible. For example, in Germany the confidentiality of some of the economic panel data prevents scientists and researchers from using it to make potentially valuable discoveries that could be very beneficial. Contrast this with the paradigm the United Kingdom has chosen by issuing certificates for accessing such data to trusted researchers. More value could be gleaned if more people could do research with such data.

Professor Rendtel advocates using interactive, visual software for teaching statistics, especially introductory statistics. His evaluation of students has evolved over the year, and now he makes software use an integral part of demonstrating what they’ve learned. He encourages students to “play” with their data and explore it using interactive, dynamic graphs. This approach is proving very popular with students.

When it comes to labels — data scientist, statistician, machine learner, etc. — he advocates an open mind. Though the perspectives may be different, there is value to be had from all of them, he says. 

I hope you’ll join us Wednesday, May 17, for this webcast. If you can’t watch that day, you can always catch the archived version, along with other Analytically Speaking webcasts.