Statistics and Scientific Research

All measurements contain some uncertainty and error, and statistical methods help us quantify and characterize this uncertainty. This helps explain why scientists often speak in qualified statements. For example, no seismologist who studies earthquakes would be willing to tell you exactly when an earthquake is going to occur; instead, the U.S. Geological Survey issues statements like this, “There is … a 71% probability of at least one magnitude 5.7 or greater earthquake in the 3-decade interval 2003-2022 within the San Francisco Bay Region” (USGS, 2007). This may sound ambiguous, but it is in fact a very precise, mathematically-derived description of how confident seismologists are that a major earthquake will occur, and open reporting of error and uncertainty is a hallmark of quality scientific research. Read more of this post

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