Happy World Statistics Day! Woo-hoo!

OK, so maybe it won't get a lot of fanfare, but it's worth taking a day to acknowledge the role of data in public discourse and education.

Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters
A week ago, fireworks lit up the Brandenburg Gate at Berlin's Festival of Lights on Oct.13. World Statistics Day, Oct. 21, probably won't get any fireworks, just the quiet buzz of thousands of numbers rustling with pride. Let's hear it for the statisticians.

Collecting and disseminating useful data about the economy, government finances, demographics, health, the environment, etc. can be a difficult business. Survey methodologies and estimation techniques are inevitably open to legitimate criticism and also attract a good deal of not-so-legitimate criticism (for examples of both, see the debate over the “birth death model” in estimating payroll employment). But all in all, I think our official statisticians perform a valuable service.

So in honor of the first World Statistics Day, let me quote from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon:

I commend the dedication that many statistical experts bring to their reports and publications. They carry out an essential public service — one that promotes peace and democracy by giving citizens reliable and impartial public information about their communities. Their core values — service, integrity and professionalism — deserve full support in all nations.

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