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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Use of statistics packages Statistics in science as a whole is a mess. Ecology is no different from the rest of the field, although maybe slightly better than some parts. Statistical analysis is becoming more sophisticated but one thing is clear - R is winning the race.



The mismatch between current statistical practice and doctoral training in ecology. Ecosphere 17th August 2016. doi: 10.1002/ecs2.1394
Ecologists are studying increasingly complex and important issues such as climate change and ecosystem services. These topics often involve large data sets and the application of complicated quantitative models. We evaluated changes in statistics used by ecologists by searching nearly 20,000 published articles in ecology from 1990 to 2013. We found that there has been a rise in sophisticated and computationally intensive statistical techniques such as mixed effects models and Bayesian statistics and a decline in reliance on approaches such as ANOVA or t tests. Similarly, ecologists have shifted away from software such as SAS and SPSS to the open source program R. We also searched the published curricula and syllabi of 154 doctoral programs in the United States and found that despite obvious changes in the statistical practices of ecologists, more than one-third of doctoral programs showed no record of required or optional statistics classes. Approximately one-quarter of programs did require a statistics course, but most of those did not cover contemporary statistical philosophy or advanced techniques. Only one-third of doctoral programs surveyed even listed an optional course that teaches some aspect of contemporary statistics. We call for graduate programs to lead the charge in improving training of future ecologists with skills needed to address and understand the ecological challenges facing humanity.





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