European Survey of Information Society

 

Home   Structure of ESIS   Background to the ESIS Project   Project Management Contacts   Lead and local Contractors   History of ESIS
Statistics

Statistics is a branch of mathematics dealing with data collection, organization, analysis, interpretation and presentation. In applying statistics to, for example, a scientific, industrial, or social problem, it is conventional to begin with a statistical population or a statistical model process to be studied. Populations can be diverse topics such as "all people living in a country" or "every atom composing a crystal". Statistics deals with all aspects of data, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments. See glossary of probability and statistics.
When census data cannot be collected, statisticians collect data by developing specific experiment designs and survey samples. Representative sampling assures that inferences and conclusions can reasonably extend from the sample to the population as a whole. An experimental study involves taking measurements of the system under study, manipulating the system, and then taking additional measurements using the same procedure to determine if the manipulation has modified the values of the measurements. In contrast, an observational study does not involve experimental manipulation.
Statistics is a mathematical body of science that pertains to the collection, analysis, interpretation or explanation, and presentation of data, or as a branch of mathematics. Some consider statistics to be a distinct mathematical science rather than a branch of mathematics. While many scientific investigations make use of data, statistics is concerned with the use of data in the context of uncertainty and decision making in the face of uncertainty.
To use a sample as a guide to an entire population, it is important that it truly represents the overall population. Representative sampling assures that inferences and conclusions can safely extend from the sample to the population as a whole. A major problem lies in determining the extent that the sample chosen is actually representative. Statistics offers methods to estimate and correct for any bias within the sample and data collection procedures. There are also methods of experimental design for experiments that can lessen these issues at the outset of a study, strengthening its capability to discern truths about the population.
An example of an observational study is one that explores the association between smoking and lung cancer. This type of study typically uses a survey to collect observations about the area of interest and then performs statistical analysis. In this case, the researchers would collect observations of both smokers and non-smokers, perhaps through a cohort study, and then look for the number of cases of lung cancer in each group. A case-control study is another type of observational study in which people with and without the outcome of interest (e.g. lung cancer) are invited to participate and their exposure histories are collected.