In June 2011, Sir David Cox agreed to a very informal ‘interview’ on the topics of the 2010 workshop that I co-ran at the London School of Economics (CPNSS), Statistical Science and Philosophy of Science, where he was a speaker. Soon after I began taping, Cox stopped me in order to show me how to do a proper interview. He proceeded to ask me questions, beginning with:
COX: Deborah, in some fields foundations do not seem very important, but we both think foundations of statistical inference are important; why do you think that is?
MAYO: I think because they ask about fundamental questions of evidence, inference, and probability. I don’t think that foundations of different fields are all alike; because in statistics we’re so intimately connected to the scientific interest in learning about the world, we invariably cross into philosophical questions about empirical knowledge and inductive inference.
Dept Fish and Wildlife Sciences,
Dept Mathematics and Statistical Science
University of Idaho
Journal Editors Be Warned: Statistics Won’t Be Contained
I heartily second Professor Mayo’s call, in a recent issue of Conservation Biology, for science journals to tread lightly on prescribing statistical methods (Mayo 2021). Such prescriptions are not likely to be constructive; the issues involved are too vast.
The science of ecology has long relied on innovative statistical thinking. Fisher himself, inventor of P values and a considerable portion of other statistical methods used by generations of ecologists, helped ecologists quantify patterns of biodiversity (Fisher et al. 1943) and understand how genetics and evolution were connected (Fisher 1930). G. E. Hutchinson, the “founder of modern ecology” (and my professional grandfather), early on helped build the tradition of heavy consumption of mathematics and statistics in ecological research (Slack 2010). Continue reading