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National Statistics Day 2024: Celebrating the Power of Data for Informed Decision Making

Written by Ankita Hazarika, VART Consulting

Honouring the Guardian of Numbers

In the ocean of information that shapes our world, there is a day that quietly honours the guardian of truth in numbers – National Statistics Day. Celebrated annually on June 29 in India, this event commemorates the birth anniversary of renowned statistics professor Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis (born June 29, 1893 – died June 28, 1972). It is an invitation to reflect on the role of statistics in our understanding of society, the economy, and the nature of human existence. This year (2024), the theme of National Statistics Day, “Use of Data for Decision Making,” will emphasize the crucial importance of statistics in contemporary society and underscore the transformative impact of data science on the interpretation and application of statistical data.

The Legacy of Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis

National Statistics Day was first celebrated in India on June 29, 2007, to honour Professor Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis for his outstanding contributions to the field of statistics and economic planning. Best known for the Mahalanobis distance, a measure used widely in statistics, he also founded the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) in 1931. His work laid the foundation for the development of new statistical methods in India and contributed significantly to the country’s post-liberation economic planning. Mahalanobis played a key role in formulating India’s Second Five-Year Plan, which emphasized industrialization and aimed to create a sustainable economy. His expertise in statistical methods profoundly impacted India’s economic policy and development strategy.

Celebrating the Human Spirit of Inquiry

National Statistics Day is more than just a celebration of numerical prowess. It is a celebration of the human spirit’s search for truth and understanding. It is a tribute to the relentless pursuit of knowledge and the tireless effort to capture the complexity of our world in a concise and understandable form. Behind every piece of statistical information, there are lives affected, communities changed, and futures shaped.

The Art and Science of Statistics

Amidst the grand symphony of human endeavour, where information flows like melodies through the ages, statistics emerges as the conductor, creating harmony from complexity. It is the art of collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and presenting data — a discipline that illuminates our world and empowers decision-makers. Like a master painter’s brush, statistics captures our collective experiences and aspirations in vibrant strokes of data. From the towering structures of economics to the intricate patterns of health and education, it provides a canvas for societies to shape their futures. In a rapidly evolving world, statistics stands as the guardian of truth, transforming vast oceans of information into actionable insights.

The Synergy of Data Science and Statistics

Edwards Deming once remarked, “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” In today’s expansive information domain, where data moves fluidly like music, data science appears as the conductor creating harmonious tunes from the chaos of data. It combines statistical techniques with the power of computer tools, machine learning, and deep domain knowledge to reveal insights into complex and large datasets. Data science goes beyond being just a field; it is like magic that turns data into valuable insights, leading to optimization, prediction, and strategic decision-making in various industries.

Transformative Impact Across Industries

In healthcare, data science enhances patient outcomes with predictive modelling and personalized treatment plans. It foresees disease outbreaks, aids researchers in addressing global health challenges, and transforms our approach to wellness and medical care. In environmental research, data science acts as a guardian of sustainability, simulating climate change dynamics, optimizing resource management, and supporting initiatives that protect our planet for future generations. By combining statistics with computational power, it informs policies that balance progress with environmental protection.

In business, the synergy between data science and statistical analysis creates a rich narrative from each data point. It uncovers customer preferences, predicts market trends, and guides company strategies with precision. Using advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms, businesses can decode the complexities of consumer behavior and market dynamics, enabling swift, data-driven decisions.

Conclusion

National Statistics Day 2024 is not merely a celebration of numerical expertise but a tribute to the spirit of inquiry and the quest for truth that statistics embodies. Reflecting on the significant contributions of Professor Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis and the transformative power of data, we acknowledge the indispensable role that statistics and data science play in shaping our society. From guiding economic policies to advancing healthcare and promoting environmental sustainability, the strategic use of data drives progress and informed decision-making. In the words of Carl Sagan, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Embracing this spirit of discovery, National Statistics Day reminds us that the pursuit of knowledge through data is not just about numbers but about unlocking the potential for incredible discoveries that can shape a better future for all.

Scope of Statistics Subject in India and Abroad: Opportunity and Challenges of Modern Statisticians

Written by Hiranya Borah, ISS, EX-Deputy Director General, Ministry of Jal Shakti(Drinking Water and Sanitation and Author)

I often come across a question from many students and parents, ‘if I send my son/ daughter (or if I go for a study in statistics) to study in statistics what is his job opportunity as he/ she has failed to get a seat in medical or in engineering stream?’

My reply is always laced with some pride being a professional statistician, ‘First of all, to study statistics, one should not fail to secure a seat in medical college or an engineering college. When I studied statistics, I had to compete in my degree course with some very brilliant students including a rank holder in Class XII examination. Just for record, I had enough marks (in those days in medical college of Assam and in some medical and engineering colleges of other states, admission was taken place on the basis of Class XII marks) to get a seat in medical college and an engineering seat including at BITS Pilani. So, I studied statistics as per my own choice, not due to a compulsion. So far, your anxiety over getting a job by your ward (by you), I have never come across a single master degree holder in statistics, without a job. However, one can say that job is not satisfactory to him/ her.’

I think my small answer summarize whole issue of taking statistics as a subject in your graduation or in the masters. Let me elaborate little further, a statistics graduate can study in Operation Research, Computer science, data engineering and some other subjects also for building their career in some other subjects, not as a core statistician, if he/ she desires to change from a professional statistician to other field. If, however, he / she wants to continue masters in statistics for a master degree holder (even sometimes with a graduation in statistics) may have following job opportunities in India:

  1. Indian Statistical Service (Assistant Director or equivalent post as first posting-first promotion after 5 years, second promotion in 9 years, third promotion in 12/14 years as Director and 4th promotion after 19 years as JS level post, and can go upto Special Secretary’s post)
  2. Any other Group A post, examination conducted by UPSC. These officers can go upto the rank of JS of Government of India.
  3. Group B post, examination conducted by UPSC. These officers can go upto the rank of JS of Government of India
  4. Group C post, examination conducted by Staff Selection Commission to be appointed by Government of India. These officers can go upto the rank of DS of Government of India.
  5. Similar posts are also available in the state Governments all over India.
  6. If someone wants to go for Academics, one can go upto the post of VC of Universities.
  7. In many schools, as subject teachers also, master degree holders in statistics are appointed.
  8. Due to their proficiency in calculations etc. statisticians are preferred over others in Bank and other PSUs (Public Sector Units) of India. In fact, in all the PSUs statistical units are established.
  9. In modern world, data scientists/ analysts have great demand in almost all spheres of modern studies and therefore, statistics is a good subject to start with for these career options.
  10. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning have the roots in statistics only and therefore studying in statistics may have good foundation for these professionals.
  11. Regression models are also widely used in different spheres of life and therefore one can build up their career as an expert of regression models.
  12. Even simple statistical measures are used in factories for selling their products for which they also appoint statisticians nowadays.
  13. Market forecasters are also basically statisticians.
  14. Every now and then large quick surveys have to be done in the modern world. For that large survey agencies are engaged by different organizations. For example, Neilson has conducted more than 2000 surveys in the last three decades. Exit poll is one of the best examples where large number of statisticians appointed.
  15. One will be surprised to know that in India, in Government departments many posts are lying vacant as on today due to lack of qualified statisticians.

In other Countries and International Organizations:

Indian statisticians have high demand in other countries to develop statistical systems in their countries. If one wants to go for jobs in other countries, scope of getting a good job with a hefty salary is very high. For record, getting a good job is very high even in western countries. Getting an excellent job in third world country, is a cakewalk for good statisticians from India.

Similarly, in all the international organizations there are statistical units and these units are full of  Indian Statisticians

But one should remember, what type of job you are going to get depends upon your knowledge in statistics.

Opportunity: A good statistician can be a good adviser to the policy makers of a country. The efficient statistician can guide policy makers to people centric policies. Professor Mahal Nobis, Professor C.R. Rao, Professor Tendulkar are the best examples how they have guided our policy makers in shaping the future of our country in the past. At present lot of good statisticians are also guiding our leaders in policy making of the modern India.

It is said ‘21st Century Belongs to the Statisticians.

Challenges: Major challenges for the modern statisticians are cropped up during the last few decades due to many reasons. Let me discuss few of them in a nutshell.

Basically, there are two types of statisticians.1. Statistical Administrators and 2. Developers of new statistical methods & techniques and discoverers / inventors of some theorems on statistics. Unfortunately, they have some conflicts. Before going to the conflicts, one should understand difference between statistics and other science subjects. Any scientific invention or discovery comes into use for the welfare of the mankind/ world/ country or organization or in that field within a year or so, even in some cases within few months. But statistical theorems, results etc. are not used for the welfare of the target groups even after lapse of decades.

Good statistical administrators are supposed to be aware of the latest statistical techniques and about new theorems etc. A good developer should know the needs of the administrators so that their intellectual products can be used by the policy makers and thus their products are useful for the target groups. Perhaps both the groups are yet to do justice to their bounden duties.

Modern statisticians should be aware of their duties and new good statistical techniques should be in use for the betterment of quality life for the people. So far, in most of the cases, statistical administrators are reluctant to use the latest technology and development of new statistical methods & techniques. On the other hand, most of the developers are developing new statistical methods and techniques only for the sake of developing without knowing why they have developed a new method or technique. Even if they know the answer of the ‘why’, in most of the cases they do not know ‘how those can be used for betterment of quality of life of the people.’

To end the conflict of thinking process of these two groups of statisticians and bridge the gap between the two sets of statisticians is the main challenge for ‘modern statistics or for a modern statistician who may have to play both of the roles at one point of time or more than one points of time in their professional life.’

Now let me come to the last part of my address.  I can give you answers to some of your specific questions in the following manners:

I have grouped your questions into four groups: 1. Why one should take statistics as a subject? 2. How to prepare for ISS? 3. Whether one should go abroad for higher studies and 4. Some very technical questions on some statistical techniques.

At the very beginning, I have probably addressed your first group of questions. I am not the appropriate person to answer the fourth group of questions. Only a professor in university can address those questions properly and therefore, I am not going to answer on those few very technical questions.

So far preparation for the ISS examination, I can guide you by saying few things. As all of you are aware that about fifty percent marks are necessary to qualify in most of the competitive examinations. Having 90% and above marks in universities, why most of the students cannot get even 50% marks in the competitive examination? Whether the standard of our universities is very low? Whether the requirement for these examinations is different? Whatever taught in the universities are no use in practical world? There may be many questions on this particular issue. Perhaps the actual reason is the combination of all these reasons.

In most of the universities, notes are given by a particular teacher and he/ she sets the question paper and he/ she examines the answer scripts also. Thus, the best result has never come from a student who has good knowledge in the subject but from the student who can do it in the best way of ‘commit and vomit’ in a university examination. But contrary to that in a competitive examination, classes are taken by a group of teachers most of whom were never been in the panel who will set up questions for the examination. Those who will set the questions, they will not examine the answer scripts. So real knowledge test is done for a student in the competitive examination.

A student is always tempted by different ‘Academy’ to enroll their institutes by giving a glossy picture that so and so of our institution has cracked so and so examination. But they will never say how many got into that elite group of successful candidates from among how many enrolled students (passed and failed ratio of the students enrolled).

Then what is key of the success? It is simple, read only the standard books of the subjects. One can consult guide books only to know what types of questions are asked; not for looking at the answers. One should find the answers from the standard books of the subject.

In the interview, only basic questions are asked with some twists and turn by giving some possible conditions that actually happens in the real world. Hypothetical questions are normally avoided even though the interviewer may start like this, ‘I want a hypothetical question….’ . I am saying this only because I am fortunate to be the chairman or a member of many boards comprising of at least 1000 candidates for recruitment or for promotion. Some of these were for promotions from Director to Senior Directors level.

I think for ISS examination also, one should read only the standard books available in the market. One need not and should not read the notes of the university classes/ guide books for the examination. Further, always tell yourself, ‘If Hiranya Borah can crack ISS examination in the first attempt, why can’t I.’ I am sure you can crack the ISS examination very easily.

So far 3rd point is concerned, if you can afford, you can go abroad for higher studies. Answering a very specific question, whether, one should go for his studies to London, I cannot comment, because so far, I know, if you go to London for higher studies after taking a loan it is comparatively difficult to return the loan amount than returning loan for studying in USA and other European countries due work policy of Great Britain.

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