Understanding the New Statistics: Expanding Core Statistical Theory (08w5071)


Rudolf Beran (University of California, Davis)

Iain Johnstone (Stanford University)

(University of Alberta)

(Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich)


The Banff International Research Station will host top researchers in its workshop on "Understanding the New Statistics: Expanding Core Statistical Theory" next week, September 14 - 19, 2008. Statistical data analysis is generally considered one of the major scientific achievements of the twentieth century. Probably the best demonstration of the vitality of statistical ideas are continuing attempts at their appropriation. For example, a recent Nobel Prize in economics essentially recognized research in statistical time series analysis that had application to econometrics. The past century saw the emergence of what are called the mathematical sciences. These include theoretical physics, quantum chemistry, mathematical statistics, and more. We are now witnessing the emergence of the statistical sciences: disciplines that rely on statistical theory to express their specific ideas. Examples of statistical sciences include biostatistics, econometrics, statistical finance, genomics, signal processing, machine learning, and more. Supporting the growth of the statistical sciences has been the technological revolution in computing.

As the title indicates, our focus in the Banff workshop "Understanding the New Statistics: Expanding Core Statistical Theory" is core statistical theory. In the past, we might have called the topic "mathematical statistics", were not this name so closely associated with the 1960's vision of statistics before the computer revolution changed our discipline. We put emphasis on "the new statistics" to indicate that we not interested in variations on old themes, but rather in relevant theory for the data-analytic circumstances of the present, outlined above. The call for this type of theory - rethinking the old and seeking new approaches - was recently expressed at several places, for instance at the influential "Report on the Future of Statistics" (Bruce Lindsay, Jon Kettenring, and David Siegmund) published in 2004 and summarizing an earlier 2002 report to the U.S. National Science Foundation. We concentrate on several topics that we believe are particularly important in this contexte and see the workshop as an opportunity to make first steps on a likely long way.

The Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS) is a collaborative Canada-US-Mexico venture that provides an environment for creative interaction as well as the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and methods within the Mathematical Sciences, with related disciplines and with industry. The research station is located at The Banff Centre in Alberta and is supported by Canada's Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the US National Science Foundation (NSF), Alberta's Advanced Education and Technology, and Mexico's Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologí­a (CONACYT).