Science and Power

April 17, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Statistician Miron Straf on the difference between statisticians who work in academia and those who work in Washington for the government.
Academic statisticians convince others of their conclusions by proof. Government statisticians convince others by power. That is one reason meetings are so different to them. Academic statisticians don’t need meetings to develop proofs. . . . Government statisticians need meetings so they can control the agenda or write up the report of conclusions.
“Mr. Statistician Schleps to Washington,” Chance, vol. 20, no. 4, 2007 ( no online version, at least none that I could find)

Government scientists relying on power rather than evidence – I wonder if this tendency holds not just in the social sciences but even in the hard sciences. And I wonder if it has become even more true during the Bush years. I suspect, of course, that the answer to both questions is Yes.

Hat tip to my brother Skip for sending me this article.

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