I’ve been in Chicago for about 2 months now. And I f****** love it. (We’ll see how I feel in January/February, though). I’ve never lived in a big city (or near a big city, as I actually live outside of the city) before in my life, and I’m constantly amazed by normal city things. Public transportation, coffee houses, walking and biking places, never using my car (I’ve gone to the gas station exactly twice since I have been here). And I love all of it.
On the statistics front, there are so many people doing statistics here it’s hard for me to comprehend. As a way to meet some more of those people, I attended the Chicago Chapter of the ASA statistician of the year award (which has a pretty impressive list of winners) dinner on October 22nd. At dinner, I sat with two of my students from my non-parametric class and met a statistician at Nielsen and another one who worked for Mathematica Policy Research. Needless to say that led to a very interesting dinner conversation.
This years winner was Andrew Gelman, who spoke for maybe 20-30 minutes about his thoughts on statistics.
My two take aways from his talk were:
- Gelman mentioned that he had a conversation with Don Rubin year ago about deciding whether to pursue physics or statistics and Rubin told him that in statistics you get to work on whatever you want. The rest is history and statistics has Gelman and his wide array of work in many different areas.
- I hope I can capture the essence of what he was saying here. Gelman mentioned that there was this sort of mentality of us versus them (statisticians versus scientists), in that statisticians are always trying to train scientists in proper statistics. But Gelman argued that we’ve trained scientists TOO well. To the point where scientists believe that once they show that the p-value is below 0.05 that they have discovered some object truth about the universe. (Statisticians know better, of course.) And that this has led to many borderline crazy studies. Gelman mentioned a few including a study that attempted to demonstrate that single women who were on their menstrual cycles were more like to vote for Obama, but married women on their cycle were more likely to vote for Romney.
After dinner and Gelman’s talk I introduced myself to Gelman and told him that I really enjoyed his blog. I asked him how he was capable of posting something every day and he said that he just writes a bunch of posts and then schedules them for future dates and that he is about 2 months (!) ahead on blog posts. He also mentioned that blogging is what he does when he is avoiding work. Most people waste time checking emails, apparently he blogs. He also mentioned that he saw it as service to the field.
And it was this short conversation with him that has led me to spending the day in a coffee shop writing blog posts when I should be checking my email and revising manuscripts. But I’ll get to that later. I love Chicago.