In Praise of Significance Magazine

I love Significance magazine the bimonthly journal/magazine hybrid released by the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) and American Statistical Association (ASA). As soon as it slips through my letterbox I pop the kettle on and settle in for a thoroughly enjoyable dive into statistics related news. For many this will sound incredibly dorky but seeing as you are reading my blog I can only assume you have a little of the statistics dork inside you as well. So let me tell you of the wonders held within it’s glossy pages…

Many budding STEM researchers in the UK would have rifled through copies of New Scientist when we were in 6th Form both for our own enjoyment and looking for that elusive “inspiring real-world application” we could embed into our UCAS forms. Of course New Scientist has a lot of ground to cover and often glossed over statistical detail which made me steadily lose interest once I was an undergraduate (the prohibitive cost was another issue for those of us on tight student budget). Significance has a similar look and feel with digestible articles and the appealing style of a magazine. The advantage of Significance is 1) it comes as part of RSS membership which for a statistician, like me, means the cost is directly investing in my career and 2) every article is in my field and as such is of professional and personal interest and more excitingly this doesn’t mean it lacks variety. As you can guess from my blog’s name, Playing in Your Backyard which is a riff on the famous John Tukey quote, I was drawn to statistics because of the variety and Significance delivers on this level as well. In the latest issue (December 2016) there are articles on earthquake warning systems, game theory applied to security, and ADHD diagnosis to name but a few.

There are three types of article “In Brief”, “In Detail” and “In Practice” which appear as labels at the start of each article so you know what you’re getting into from the start. “In Detail” articles are perfect for a lunch break or the weekend and provide technical details (they’re sort of simplified journal papers). On the other hand the shorter “In Brief” articles go well with a quick cuppa in the afternoon. “In Practice” articles are usually about general practice rather than a particular analysis and can help you get a feel for the current “culture” among professional peers.My favourite thing about the articles, from a PhD perspective, is you can imagine yourself writing them and feel inspired. While they are a little too simplistic to be a serious journal paper they cover the core details and help you get a sense of a good structure. Journal articles can seem very intimidating so I like having these simplified examples that are often linked to the authors’ actual published papers on the topic providing a handy comparison.

All in all, Significance is a fun way to stay engaged in the broader field of statistics. Particularly as a Statistics PhD outside of a maths department I can feel pretty isolated (I don’t even have a research group!). I feel a sense of camaraderie with other statistical professionals thanks to the RSS and I would highly recommend all statisticians join up.


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