Nonmathematical Statistics: A New Direction for the Undergraduate Discipline

By Higgins, James J. | The American Statistician, February 1999 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Nonmathematical Statistics: A New Direction for the Undergraduate Discipline


Higgins, James J., The American Statistician


1. STATUS OF STATISTICS AS AN UNDERGRADUATE DISCIPLINE

By the undergraduate statistics discipline I mean those things in teaching, research, and service that are necessary to sustain an undergraduate program (degree program or area of concentration) in statistics. In particular I have chosen to focus on the curriculum for undergraduate majors. I have excluded from my discussion service courses where many positive developments have taken place in recent years. I have also excluded graduate degree programs although some of my remarks might apply there as well.

Many have characterized this as the age of information. The collection, management, and analysis of data are essential to today's society. The things that are at the core of the discipline of statistics are things that society demands. In spite of this, statistics is not widely established as an undergraduate discipline.

I think it is safe to say that most statistics departments began with a central mission to produce M.S. and Ph.D. statisticians to fill needs in academia, government, and industry. A browse through issues of The American Statistician from the 1950s will show great concern for the shortage of statisticians with advanced degrees who would be capable of teaching statistics in colleges and universities and filling research positions in industry and government. An article entitled "Demand And Supply of Statisticians Now and in the Future," which consists of three short papers by Bancroft, Futransky, and Harshbarger (1958), sheds light on the extreme shortage of statisticians at that time. Perhaps because of the need to train those with advanced degrees in statistics, undergraduate programs have generally not been regarded as being as important to the profession as graduate programs.

There are around 220 universities and colleges that offer programs in statistics. This constitutes only about 10% of the four-year colleges and universities in the country. Approximately 60% of these programs are in nonstatistics departments or departments that combine statistics with some other discipline, principally mathematics. The programs that are in statistics or biostatistics departments are located mostly at Ph.D. granting institutions. Statistics programs at four-year liberal arts colleges are virtually nonexistent. By contrast over 50% of the colleges and universities have programs in computer science, and many have separate departments of computer science at the undergraduate level (Barron's 1995).

While statistical reasoning may be considered an important component of a liberal education, statistics is not regarded as a fundamental undergraduate discipline in the same sense that mathematics, history, and biology are. This has had negative consequences not only for the statistics profession but also for society which may not be getting the best trained individuals to handle data collection and analysis. Minton (1983) dealt in detail with the lack of visibility of statistics and concluded that the only way to overcome this problem "is to develop undergraduate degree programs and departments."

In times of tight budgets, graduate programs and small undergraduate programs are usually the first to get careful scrutiny for budget cutting. It may make perfectly good sense to an administrator to eliminate statistics in the name of efficiency or combine it with mathematics or some other discipline. The article "Statistics Departments Under Siege" by Iman (1994) was a chilling assessment of the status of our discipline. The article by Kettenring (1997b) - "The Birth, Life, and Death of Statistics Departments" - again raised concerns about the health of the discipline. Instead of being on the rise in the information age, statistics at some places is on the decline.

An oft-prescribed remedy for the perceived ills of the discipline is that we need to do a better job of selling statistics. As I look back at the 28 years that I've been in the profession, I can see a tremendous "sales" effort.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Nonmathematical Statistics: A New Direction for the Undergraduate Discipline
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.