Educating Statisticians For Work In Epidemiology: Can We Find The Correct Balance Between General Statistical Ability And Particular Skills

Proceedings of the sixth international conference on teaching statistics, Developing a statistically literate society
Heuch, I.
Phillips, B.
International Statistical Institute

The availability of comprehensive population registries in Scandinavian countries has facilitated extensive work in epidemiology on associations between risk factors and disease. The area has attracted many statisticians with no previous training in epidemiology. Experience has shown that some statisticians find it difficult to adapt to the practical challenges of this work. Not only is a basic understanding required of the statistical methods involved, but a particular cautious attitude is needed in the interpretation of epidemiological data with inherent uncertainties. An ability to communicate efficiently with coworkers is also essential. Yet the statistician must frequently deal with issues of a biological nature, in addition to technical aspects of data processing. It is difficult to take all these requirements into account in the education of professional statisticians. It is argued that the components not directly connected with statistics should still be integrated into the statistical training of future professionals. If statistics courses include a sufficient amount of relevant data analytic work, the students will be exposed to many of the challenges experienced in epidemiology.

The CAUSE Research Group is supported in part by a member initiative grant from the American Statistical Association’s Section on Statistics and Data Science Education