Statistics, Statisticians and Medicine
In my younger days, women at parties often used to ask what I did for a living. I proffered only the information that I worked somewhere called the Institute of Psychiatry, hoping, I confess, that they would jump to the conclusion that I was a psychologist or, better still, a psychiatrist. If they did, some question as to whether I was ‘psychoanalysing them’ often followed and this was usually a good predictor of a successful evening to come. But on the occasions where I was forced to reveal more about my job, until finally I had to admit to being a statistician, I usually left early to prevent the social isolation that almost always followed.
In the general public’s affection, statisticians rank perhaps a trifle above politicians but certainly no higher than traffic police and tax collectors. Most people see statistics itself as dull, devious and even downright dangerous, and its practitioners are often judged professionally suspect and socially undesirable. Like most...