What is Statistics?

The word "statistics" generates many associations. For some, it means that they categorize precisely their daily activities into different categories, for every 5 minutes period. Others read skeptically the conclusions in newspapers regarding statistical numbers related to our society. Or they remember that sometime ago, during school and university, they were confronted with methods that were both simple and incomprehensible - mathematics! And finally there are people who appreciate statistical indicators and methods as useful information and tools.

Indicators and methods - the word statistics does have these two meanings. The Swiss Federal Office of Statistics, and the regional and cantonal offices, deal firstly with gathering data, which mirror the economic, politicial and societal reality or the state of the health of the population and the environment. They then develop indicators, which are an important piece of information for political decisions. To do this, they need the more methodological side of statistics, to ensure that the data allow to converge to solid conclusions. These methods do have their value in other scientific and technical areas. Many of these model describe mathematically and precisely phonemona governed by random events.

These two notions of "Statistics" are closely related to the evolution of the different societies who dealt with Statistics. Offices of statistics were founded in many countries towards the e nd of the 19th century. These offices worked on public statistics and they were linked to the science of "Volkswirtschaft". The methodological side was added at a later stage, and its importance varies among the different countires. In Switzerland, Statisticians from academia founded in 1988 their own organization, the "Swiss Statistical Society".

A flyer concerning the activity as a statistician is available here. This flyer was prepared by the CORSTAT, the SFSO und the SSS.

Application fields

The most important areas of application of statistics imply some typical statistical problems:

Exact Sciences

  • Modelling of relationships between different variables, if possible with causal interpretation:
    • How does the end product of a chemical reaction depend on the initial conditions?
    • Which environmental conditions have an influence on the density of a population, and how does the quantitative relation look like?
  • Modelling of chemical reactions, growth, diffusion, and the like. Further key words are:
    • Concise descriptions and comparison of ecosystems
    • Estimation of reserves of mining products
    • Evaluation of satellite images, wether forecasts, ...

Medical and Pharmaceutical Sciences

  • Does a treatment show the desired response? Are there side effects?
  • How effective or toxic is a chemical compound?
  • Can deseases be diagnosed automatically on the basis of suitable measurements?
  • Are certain deseases triggered by polluted environments or professional risks?
  • Modelling the dynamics of pharmacological processes or the dispersion of epidemic deseases.

Agriculture and forestery

  • What production conditions are optimal?
  • Which bulls have a high breeding value?
  • How much wood is present in a forest?

Production, Engineering

  • What production conditions are optimal?
  • Is safety at stake?
  • Is production running normal or are there disturbances?
  • Key words are Quality Control, Quality assurance and management, Reliability, Risk Assessment, Modelling of technical processes and process control.

Economics, Sociology

  • Modelling of micro and macro economics, possibly for forecasting
  • Market and opinion research
  • Studies on socioligical relations by surveys

Psychology, Behavioral Sciences

  • Measurement of psychological properties
  • Modelling and comparison of learning processes
  • Studies on perception, potentially for gaining insight into the mechanisms of brain processes
  • Behavior of animals in reaction to their environment

Looking for a job?

Vacancies for statisticians and related professions are published here.

Calls for Papers

Calls for Papers/Contributions from scientific conferences and journals are published here as well as scientific competitions and awards.

List of Service Providers

Consulting firms and service providers for Statistics and Data Analytics are listed here.