Got dreams of winning the big jackpot? Ronald Wasserstein might have a few sobering words about that.
The concept of statistical significance has been the go-to basis for determining the value of scientific studies. But, Wasserstein asks, what if that’s the wrong approach?
The statistician and longtime executive director of the American Statistical Association will visit campus on Tuesday, Oct. 18, to give two in-person talks for a non-technical and humorous take on these two topics and what science says about them. Wasserstein’s talks are a part of the College of Natural Sciences celebration of Homecoming Week.
Wasserstein’s “What Probability and Forrest Gump Teach Us About the California Lottery” talk is scheduled from noon to 1 p.m. on Oct. 18 in the Faculty Center for Excellence, on the fourth floor of the John M. Pfau Library (PL-4005). Those interested in attending can register for the talk using the event’s registration link or clicking on https://bit.ly/Wasserstein1. Registrants who choose to attend virtually should also register for the event so that they may be provided with the Zoom link and passcode. Further event details are listed on the talk’s Coyote Connection event page and the university’s Homecoming 2022 homepage.
This talk is designed for all audiences, especially for students, and is also beneficial for faculty, staff and community members.
For this talk, Wasserstein will delve into the question about why we have lotteries, what are your chances of winning the big jackpot, and why it is so hard to understand how small your chances are. To illustrate his point, he will give attendees the opportunity to try their luck with a simulated lottery.
“Dr. Wasserstein is an engaging and exciting speaker, and our students and the community are in for a treat with these two talks,” said Sastry G. Pantula, dean of the College of Natural Sciences. “I can tell you from my personal experience, listening to him talk about the lottery system with enthusiasm, how the big jackpot could be a big tax to certain demographics in our society.”
Wasserstein’s “Moving to a World Beyond” talk is also scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 18, from 3 to 4 p.m., and will also be held the Faculty Center for Excellence, on the fourth floor of the Pfau Library (PL-4005). Those interested in attending can register for the talk using the event’s registration link or clicking on https://bit.ly/Wasserstein2. Registrants who choose to attend virtually should also register for the event so that they may be provided with the Zoom link and passcode. Further event details are listed on the talk’s Coyote Connection event page and the university’s Homecoming 2022 homepage.
This talk will be non-technical and is geared for general audiences, but it may be of particular interest to students, scientists, academics, researchers, science majors and science enthusiasts.
For this talk, Wasserstein will examine how the concept of statistical significance has been fundamental to discoveries in science – but also how it has been controversial and misused as well. He will explain the controversy and discuss why he and others have called for an end to the use of statistical significance as a means of determining the worth of scientific results. Wasserstein will also discuss why this proposed change is so difficult for the scientific community to make, but why it is good for science and statistics. He will discuss alternate approaches to statistical significance.
“This is certainly a very significant talk for everyone to hear and understand what we read in the news and in scientific journals,” Pantula said. “It is certainly a controversial topic in the sciences, and we are fortunate to have an expert to speak from the American Statistical Association.”
Wasserstein has promoted the practice and profession of statistics for years, and has been serving as executive director of the American Statistical Association since 2007. He is also the association’s official spokesperson.
Prior to his involvement with the association, Wasserstein was a faculty member who taught mathematics and statistics, and he was an administrator at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, according to his association bio. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement, and he has been the recipient of the John Ritchie Alumni Award and Muriel Clarke Student Life Award from Washburn University, the Manning Distinguished Service Award from the North American Association of Summer Schools, and the George Mach Distinguished Service Award from Kappa Mu Epsilon National Mathematics Honor Society. Wasserstein earned his master’s degree and Ph.D., both in statistics, from Kansas State University.
Prospective attendees who have questions about these talks can call or email the College of Natural Sciences Office of the Dean at (909) 537-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.