Thomasen, Lisa

The Bedside Manner of a Statistician

Fonterra, Palmerston North

“To call in the statistician after the experiment is done may be no more than asking him to perform a post-mortem examination: he may be able to say what the experiment died of.” - Ronald Fisher (1938)

At med school, doctors learn the importance of an empathetic bedside manner. Bedside manner is an overlooked skill in a statistician’s toolbox which leaves us to learn the hard way how to tell a scientist that their experiment is dead.

I will outline some of the soft skills of statistical consulting including “statistical first aid” and the “stats defibrillator” which can be used to revive sickly datasets.

As in health care, prevention is always better than a cure. I will share some of my preventative measures and “stats herbal remedies” which can be employed to avoid that awkward moment of pronouncing the dataset dead.