Real World Statistics with Professor Ed Vieira

May 25, 2018

Professor Vieira's new book helps add big data to your arsenal.

Vieira bookThis interview was conducted by Monica Tham '17 and originally appeared in its entirety in the Spring 2017 issue of Management Magazine.


You have been teaching applied statistics for many years and have just published a new textbook on the topic. What makes statistics so important? How does it impact people’s lives?

Technology provides a great deal of data at our fingertips that allows for so much data-driven, decision-making potential. People cannot analyze complex problems and develop reliable results by critical thinking alone. Intuition and other human qualitative capacities are limited. Statistics allows us to analyze complex problems and provide reliable results, which humans cannot as easily do. That is not to say that we do not need people. We provide the theoretical or conceptual basis for analyzing a situation, but statistics offers the tools to “objectively” analyze a situation so that we can make reliable, data-driven, informed decision.

Everyone is talking these days about “big data” as the solution to all our business challenges. Are you seeing innovative places where the use of data and statistics is really changing the nature of how businesses are approaching their challenges?

The world is changing and becoming more digitally data-driven. For the first time in history, we can both capture and generate data in real time, moment by moment. Think about what this means—we can virtually instantaneously analyze and adjust programs and actions while they are being implemented. For example, in manufacturing, the production of a part can involve information generated from a thousand points and we can analyze these thousand points to adjust and optimize production. We can do the same for online shopping behavior. Statistics can be used to predict buying behavior with a high degree of precision. These are just some examples of how statistics enables us to make informed and effective decisions with unprecedented precision. This is historical!

What about statistics in health care? What are innovative ways that health care administrators can utilize statistics to improve their operations and patient outcomes?

Keep in mind that health care statistics covers a broad range of areas such as medical device development and testing, drug development and clinical trials, patient satisfaction studies, a host of health care costs and insurance issues, patient compliance research, evaluative research, and related informatics (data storage and retrieval).

Through the use of health care analytics, which deploys advanced software and hardware technologies, we can monitor and adjust our research or treatment based on the collection of data in real time. In the area of sports science there is ongoing research that examines the relationship between the body, mind, and physical performance including how adjustments in the environment can impact performance. Other research examines the interaction between health care professionals and patients. For instance, research found an association between patient psyche and the color of a nurse’s uniform.


To read the full interview, check out the Spring 2017 issue of Management Magazine.