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Statistics, Ethics and Graduate Study: Advice for Young Statisticians Stephen B. Vardeman (and Max Morris) ISU Statistics and IMSE 9/20/11 (Based on Vardeman and Morris TAS 2003)
What is this all about? … Why am I here??? • “Data collection and analysis”? True, but incomplete • The whole story is “Tools, patterns of thought, and habits of heart that will allow you to deal with data with integrity”
At its core, statistics is about honesty (our primary societal role) • Doing the right thing with empirical information • The principled collection, summarization and analysis of data
Statistical theory and methods provide • A framework for dealing transparently and consistently with empirical information from any field • Means of seeing and portraying what is true in the external world • Ways of avoiding being fooled by both the ill intent (or ignorance) of others and your own incorrect predispositions
Society expects statistics to play this role • Seen in the positive • Role in regulatory contexts • “Statistical significance” in scientific inquiry • Seen in the negative • "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics” … Disraeli
Noble and serious business • Assumptions here • Your basic moral sense and real desire to do good • This is more than a ticket to a comfortable middle-class existence • Integrity is a pattern of life, not an incident • Today at ISU is strongly correlated with later • Habits made now will endure
“Grad” ethics/“Professional” ethics • What mom taught us, applied in “grad”/“professional” world • Golden rule, applied in “grad”/“professional” world • Basic human decency and honesty applied in “grad”/“professional” world
Applications to student responsibilities • Take credit for only that which is yours • Be scrupulous about following course guidelines • Never take advantage of or over your peers
Applications to “doing the hard thing” • Don’t whine (or wilt) • Work on your weaknesses • Don’t denigrate the strengths others have that you don’t have • Take the best courses available • Don’t give your thesis/dissertation advisor “back-pressure”
Applications to assistantship duties • Assistantship=job, not a gift • RA quality hours on the tasks • TA’s must do well by all, both happy and sad cases • Let them know it matters • Patience! • Be approachable without being buddies • Consultants will be inconvenienced and have to make moral choices
Now … to later • Now, watch your faculty • There are some wonderful role models here … What do they do and how do they think? • Later, follow a good trajectory and correctly handle new issues
Later- professional practice • Be transparent in your analyses • Claim to know only what you do know • Keep clear the difference between an analyst and an advocate • Value principle over your own apparent short-term interests • Be scrupulous in business • Keep your word • Honor the interests of your employers
Later- publication (premises) • This is not a game or a means of “working the system” … it’s moral business • Published statistical research should provide reliable and (at least to the extent possible) complete pieces of new theory or methods that have genuine potential to ultimately help statisticians in the real practice of the discipline
Later- publication (advice) • Submit complete work that represents your best effort • Referee carefully, impartially and in a timely fashion • Take the advice of editors and referees • Give due credit • Acknowledge priority and the derivative nature of your work • Disclose what you know exists • Find your own words!!!
SPECIAL WARNING!!!! • Plagiarism can ruin your career (before it starts) and that of your Advisor if he or she doesn’t catch it!!!! • Google “Ed Wegmanplagiarism” or look him up on Wikipedia • YOU MAY NOT USE WORDS THAT ARE NOT YOUR OWN WITHOUT COMPLETE ATTRIBUTION
Later- teaching • What will govern what and how you teach? • Your specialty isn’t all there is • Do more than just what is easy • Do the best for your students … not just “what pleases the customer”
Summary • Statistics is a fundamentally moral enterprise • Integrity is developed and established through practice • Set the right trajectories now • Carry on into admirable and effective careers marked by principle