Last summer I was fortunate to attend ICOTS, the ninth International Conference on Teaching Statistics, in Flagstaff, Arizona. ICOTS takes place every four years, and is an international gathering of educators interested in examining the current state of statistics teaching, and debating ideas to improve it. As a British university lecturer, I suddenly realised that colleagues elsewhere in the world were ahead of us in a race that we didn’t even know was happening.
The way data is being put to use continues to explode. From purely statistical research in the past, to the ‘big data’ bubble, data is getting copied and reused in novel and interesting ways. All it seems to need is an idea and a dataset, and the two don’t even have to be connected for government to show interest.
As we move from the world of designed data (through surveys, censuses, and administrative forms) to one of self-generated 'big data', or more organic data. We are excited about completely new ways to describe our world, the behaviors of humans, and the activities of organizations. This will be a more complicated data world than the one that forms the basis of current most social and economic statistical indicators. Most importantly, the analysts who produce statistical descriptions in this new world are unlikely to control much of the processes that generate the data.
To an outsider, the debate surrounding the UK’s price indices may seem unfathomably complex. But beneath this complexity lies an issue of vital national importance in how we are to measure consumer price inflation in the future. The fact is, users of price indices can have vastly different needs, and these can both clash and complement each other in complicated ways.
Nesta and Universities UK recently launched respective reports on data analytics skills in the UK, and a joint policy briefing setting out changes needed in UK education and skills policy to improve the supply of analytical talent. We showed the benefits of embedding data analytics in businesses, and the ways that companies are doing this through highly skilled workers.