Wednesday, August 9, 2006

 Chart out career graph in statistics 
Sunit Dhawan

THANKS to the rapid strides in information technology and expansion of the means of communication, the present era can be termed as the age of information. The free flow of information has paved the way for easy access to data.

However, the processing and organising of data poses multifarious problems to researchers, experimenters and students. Here comes the role of statistics, as the process of data collection, analysis and interpretation requires statistical intervention and advice at every step. Hence, a sound knowledge of the basic statistical concepts is vital for any scientific research.

Statistical science has rendered significant help in collection, classification, tabulation, analysis and interpretation of data in the present scenario. Various statistical techniques, methods, tools and procedures have been evolved by statisticians for drawing meaningful inferences from samples or experimental information.

Meteorology, agriculture and allied sciences greatly depend upon the use of statistics as the variability amongst the experimental units is due to many factors. Computers have given a fillip to the use of statistical methodology.

However, the use of computerised statistical packages has brought its own set of confusion and problems. Using improper packages for a given purpose may lead to wrong inferences. Therefore, these packages are to be used carefully and intelligently under the supervision of trained statisticians.

Researchers should ideally involve statisticians at the time of planning research, so that an efficient research design can be formulated to save time, money and duplicity of effort.

Areas of specialisation

The branches of statistics include research and experiment design, time series and regression analysis, stochastic processes, sampling theory, statistical inference, probability, multivariate analysis and econometrics.

The other areas of specialisation in vogue these days include genetic statistics, bio-statistics, linear model building, industrial statistics and economic statistics.

The policies of economic liberalisation and globalisation have opened new vistas for starting businesses.

Proper market surveys are a prerequisite for launching any commercial venture on a large scale and these require statisticians for accurate observations. Meteorology also provides an opening to many fresh graduates.

Master of all you survey

Moreover, statistics also plays a key role in industrial quality control, which is another area open to the professionals in the field. Poll surveys and electoral analyses also require trained statisticians to act as psephologists.

Those wanting to work independently can start a data collection or a market research consultancy.

They can also analyse data for companies or act as share or investment consultants.

Statisticians are absorbed by banks and other financial institutions, stock and share markets, research institutes, the defence sector, the DRDO, Indian Council for Medical Research, industrial houses, media organisations and forensic science laboratories.

The teaching line also offers plenty of opportunities, especially as engineering colleges also require the service of statisticians.

Training talk

Several institutes, colleges and universities offer B. Sc, M. Sc and Ph. D courses in the discipline. The admission to the courses is generally made on the basis of merit in the qualifying exam.

The prominent among these are the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, Delhi University, Panjab University, Punjabi University, Patiala, Kurukshetra University, Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, Lucknow University, Jammu University, Mumbai University and Pune University, besides the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), Karnal, which offers a course in Economics and Statistics.

The most popular course, however, is M. Sc (Statistics), for which an aspirant is required to be B. Sc with mathematics/statistics or a BE/B. Tech.

All in all, the field has fair scope for those who have an analytical and mathematical bent of mind.

‘Statisticians in demand for market, poll surveys’

Dr Deepak GroverCALLING statisticians the ‘architects of research’, Dr Deepak Grover, Head, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar, outlines their growing role. Excerpts from an interview:

How would you define the role of statistics in research?

Statistics is vital for scientific research in any discipline. As all research involves the collection, analysis, processing and interpretation of data, a sound statistical base is a must to ensure that the research findings are valid and accurate. In fact, statisticians can be called the architects of research.

What are the openings for fresh graduates and postgraduates in the field?

Big companies conducting market research or surveys are in constant need of trained statisticians. Industrial houses require their services in their quality control wings and other departments. Media organisations also absorb statistics professionals for the analysis of electoral trends and other analytical programmes. Besides banks, financial institutions and stock and share markets are the traditional employers.

What are the emerging specialisations in the discipline?

Bio-statistics and genetic statistics are getting popular. Apart from these, economic statistics and industrial quality control, stochastic processes, research and experiment design, time series and regression analysis, probability, multivariate analysis and econometrics are the other promising areas.

What effect has the advent of computerised packages had on the use of statistical tools?

Computerised statistical packages are meant to make data handling easier for the researchers. However, overdependence on such packages is not a healthy sign.

— Sunit Dhawan