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Regular version of the site

HSE and the International Year of Statistics


This year HSE is taking part in the International Year of Statistics. We asked Vice Dean of the Faculty of Economics Alexey Ponomarenko to tell us about the events which are planned in connection with it, including those at the April Conference.

Before you say anything Alexey Nikolayevich, please can you explain what the International Year of Statistics actually is?

You know, the phrase, “Lies, damned lies and statistics”, wasn’t invented in Russia. It was Benjamin Disraeli, the British Prime Minister who said it first. It was instantly popular and translated into most languages around the world. I’ve even heard it in Japan. But the irony is that humanity can’t live without statistics even for a day anymore. Just consider how many statistics are piled onto a listener during the reporting of an ordinary hockey game. But that’s just child’s play. Can you imagine a billion dollar deal on the stock market made without the necessary statistical analysis? Statistical methods are used to calculate the ratings of TV channels and of politicians, they are used in sociology, medicine, physics, astronomy in organising how buses move and how airports are built, in quality control of goods production, in short, practically everywhere.  

The new technology has brought an avalanche of information that we need to know how to work with. We have to be able to make a qualitative assessment of occurrences, to collect data, systematise and put vast quantities of information in order, reveal trends, calculate dependencies, in other words, to do what is called “statistics” properly. As Bill Gates says, the way you gather, organise and make use of information determines whether you win or lose. And with things being like this, the army of statisticians will grow regardless of what Disraeli said a hundred and fifty years ago.

These days the number of jobs for statisticians is around 4.4 million worldwide, and the majority of those are good, highly-paid jobs. The world is changing – in the US today statistician is among the top ten most prestigious professions.

At 200 the International Statistical Institute, ISI, is one of the oldest statistical research organisations in the world and continues to be a world centre for the study of statistics. Last year ISI announced its plans to hold an international year of statistics. The idea is to popularise statistics, primarily among young people. The initiative was welcomed by many universities, research centres, official statistics organisations and schools – about 1200 in all, from all around the world, including HSE.

So, what events are in the pipeline for the Year of Statistics?

It’s all on the ISI website. They are planning to hold several dozen events promoting statistics, including the World Statistics Congress, conferences, seminars, exhibitions, a school text book, special information films, elections for the “statistician of the year” and so on. We’re also planning to hold some events at HSE. We are improving our Master’s programme in statistics which we are preparing for an expert review at the University of Michigan. We intend to take part in the World Statistics Congress in Hong Kong, and in its satellite conference on education in statistics in Macau where we will make a presentation on our part in the project on teaching statisticians from CIS countries.

Our traditional HSE international statistics conference for graduates and undergraduates is getting new, higher status – we are going to announce it on the ISI website. We are doing a lot of preparation for the statistics section at the HSE April Conference. Besides, we are hoping to get funding to publish an encyclopaedia of statistics which we think could be a big event in the framework of the International Year of Statistics.


Are you planning on bringing over some famous statisticians?

Yes, of course. This is the second year we’ve been organising the statistics section at the April Conference. Last year we had some distinguished guests from abroad, like the chief statistician in the US, Ms Katherine Wallman, the former head of the UN Statistical Department Mr Hermann Habermann, and the former leader of the statistics cluster at the World Bank, Mr Misha Belkindas. This year we are hoping to widen the geographical range and are expecting guests from Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Poland, Austria, Japan as well as experts from the UN. Besides taking part in the conference our guests will give master classes for our students. But of course we are not just limiting things to the April Conference. In spring, there will be a cycle of lectures by Dr Stanislav Molchanov from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte on using methods of mathematical statistics to analyse the situation in the financial markets. In the autumn we are expecting Dr. Erik Dietzenbacher of Groningen University with a series of fascinating lectures on using new statistical methods based on the Input-Output technique, which he will present as part of his lecture tour in Russia, Brazil and China.

Which other Russian organisations intend to take part in the events of the Year of Statistics and will there be jointly held events?

Rosstat, MGIMO, MESI and several other Russian universities have all signed up on the ISI website as organisations supporting the Year of Statistics. HSE actively works together with some of these universities in the framework of the Association of leading HEIs in the field of economics and management. HSE is obviously a leader, but leadership comes with responsibility. So we are thinking not just about our own development, we want to help other HEIs which don’t have the opportunities we have to develop too. And that’s exactly what the Year of Statistics is all about. So we are planning a joint event with other Russian universities and HEIs to raise the qualifications of statistics teachers. We hope our initiative will gain support.

Are you expecting students to take part in these events?

Everything we intend to do as part of the Year of Statistics in the final outcome is done in the interests of our students. For their sake we are improving the programmes, organising master classes with leading world-class specialists, and holding conferences. I have already mentioned the conference on statistics for students and graduates. Besides that we are planning to open a number of research laboratories and we hope students will come to them. And I’m not talking about the annual celebration of statistics day by the students at the HSE Department of Statistics, Data Analysis and Demography. Please, everyone who is interested, look at our page http://statistics.hse.ru/stat2012  and you’ll see that studying with us is not only interesting but promises a good future and is fun!


Peter Radzikhovski, specially for the HSE news portal

See also:

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The HSE Centre for Studies of Income and Living Standards studied the dynamics of the middle class and its behaviour with regard to paid services. The study was based on data drawn from the HSE Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS-HSE) for the years 2000 to 2017, and the results were presented at the 20th April International Academic Conference hosted by HSE.

Reproductive Evolution: How Birth Rates Are Changing in Post-Soviet Countries

Reproductive behavior is modernizing at different rates in post-Soviet countries. Things are changing faster in Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine, where, over the last fifteen years, the average maternity age has increased and the contribution of women in their thirties to their countries’ birthrates has grown. Meanwhile, old reproductive patterns persist in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, where firstborns are usually born to parents under 30, demographers Vladimir Kozlov and Konstantin Kazenin note in a paper delivered at HSE’s XX April International Academic Conference.

Live Long There and Prosper: How Internal Migration from Small Towns Works

More than half of school graduates in medium-sized Russian cities will change their place of residence either forever or at least for a long time. According a report on internal migration presented by HSE demographers at the XX April International Academic Conference, these people are lost to their cities.

What Drives Innovation in Russian Companies

As part of the Management session of the XX April International Conference, Carl F. Fey from Aalto University School of Business, Finland, presented his paper on Facilitating Innovation in Companies in Russia: The Role of Organizational Culture. In his talk, Professor Fey spoke about the results of three studies he has been conducting with his team.

‘In a Digital Environment, the Role of Human Teachers Only Becomes More Important’

How does digital technology affect the behavior and health of schoolchildren? What opportunities does it proved teachers and school administrators? These and other issues were discussed by participants in the plenary session ‘Children’s Wellbeing in the Digital Age’ at the XX April International Scientific Conference of HSE.

‘Statistics Should Be Available and Comprehensible to Everyone’

Implementing a digital analytical platform, opportunities for Big Data, and other prospects for the development of Russian statistics were discussed by participants at a plenary session of the XX April International Academic Conference.

Can Youth Bullying Ever Be Eradicated?

Dr. Dorothy Espelage (University of Florida) presented a comprehensive account of her research into youth bullying spanning more than two decades in an invited paper ‘Prevention & Intervention of Youth Bullying and other Forms of Youth Aggression: Research Informed Strategies’ at the XX April International Academic Conference.

‘To Achieve Our Goals, We Need to Involve a Wide Range of Universities in National Projects’

The role of regional and industrial institutions of higher education in achieving national development goals must increase, and leading universities will help them. This was the conclusion reached by participants of the plenary session on Russian higher education that took place as part of the XX April International Academic Conference.

How to Boost Russian Food Exports

The plenary session ‘Strategy of Russian Presence at Global Food Markets’ took place as part of HSE University’s XX April International Academic Conference, where participants discussed the prospects for Russian agricultural exports to Asia, as well as the use of nonconventional investment models, such as Islamic financial tools.

‘The President is Focused on Increasing the Birth Rate and Reducing Poverty by Half’

National objectives for social development, as well as existing risks and opportunities in implementing these objectives were discussed by participants of HSE International April Conference.