Seven Pillars

Wisdom hath built her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.  –Proverbs 9:1 I just finished Stephen Stigler’s The Seven Pillars of Statistical Wisdom, and I’m daunted–and embarrassed that I waited so long to read it.  Stigler gives us a structure and taxonomy to statistical thinking* that gives us the “big picture” of statistics. Quite a difference from the descriptives-to-inference-to-models approach that most textbook authors follow.  This is making me rethink how I approach my introductory courses, especially those for statistics majors.  I’m starting with a baby step: adding the (inexpensive, paperbound) book as a required reading in my … Continue reading Seven Pillars

Some Hard Stats about University Teaching

Thinking about becoming a university professor?  Read Kevin Birmingham’s “The Great Shame of Our Profession” before making definite plans. A 2014 congressional report suggests that 89 percent of adjuncts work at more than one institution; 13 percent work at four or more. The need for several appointments becomes obvious when we realize how little any one of them pays…. According to the 2014 congressional report, adjuncts’ median pay per course is $2,700. An annual report by the American Association of University Professors indicated that last year “the average part-time faculty member earned $16,718” from a single employer. Other studies have … Continue reading Some Hard Stats about University Teaching

Multiple Comparisons, Made Easy

Adrian Colyer at the morning paper, takes a stab at explaining the problem with p-values and multiple comparisons.  He shoots!  He scores!  The crowd* goes wild! Tip from an O’Reilly Daily Newsletter, which I found languishing in Clutter purgatory. *OK, the crowd of two or three statistics lecturers who struggle to explain the multiple comparison problem. Continue reading Multiple Comparisons, Made Easy

The Beginning of the End for 5%

My students repeatedly ask about setting the critical values or interpreting p-values in statistical hypothesis testing.  My stock answer is they should do their tests at the 5% level, since this is the most common and accepted practice in the biomedical community (my translation: it’s what all the KooL KiDz do.) But now some upstart Bayesian Aggie  (who’s only published 122 papers) has taken a closer look at p-values and significance levels, and claims the critical values are too loose, and need tightening up.  Good-bye 5%, hello 0.5% (for slackers) or 0.1% (for “real” researchers).  I suspect this would eliminate … Continue reading The Beginning of the End for 5%


…is one of those flexible terms academicians use to describe fellow faculty who  “do what I like” or “do the committee work I abhor” or “don’t vote for Republicans” or something of that sort.  But I’ve come up with a simpler, more objective, and operationally measurable definition:  A fellow faculty member is collegial if he erases the blackboard at the end of his lecture, especially if my class immediately follows his. Update:  I’ve found out where the missing collegiality is at UTSA!  Right next to the sushi & tapas, opposite the cash bar… Continue reading Collegiality…

New Tricks for this Old Dog

Udacity is offering an introductory statistics course this summer, beginning June 25th.  I’ve enrolled, to see how the Big Boys do it.  This is going to put a lot of pressure on traditional universities–especially here in Texas, where we’re busily hammering out the $10,000 Bachelor’s degree.  I figure if I don’t get up with the leaders of the buffalo herd, I’m gonna get trampled or left behind. Tip from Meep at the Conservative Commune. Continue reading New Tricks for this Old Dog