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Data Analysis: What Can Be Learned From the Past 50 Years by Peter J. Huber

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CHAPTER 1

WHAT IS DATA ANALYSIS?

Data analysis is concerned with the analysis of data – of any kind, and by any means. If statistics is the art of collecting and interpreting data, as some have claimed, ranging from planning the collection to presenting the conclusions, then it covers all of data analysis (and some more). On the other hand, while much of data analysis is not statistical in the traditional sense of the word, it sooner or later will put to good use every conceivable statistical method, so the two terms are practically coextensive. But with Tukey (1962) I am generally preferring “data analysis” over “statistics” because the latter term is used by many in an overly narrow sense, covering only those aspects of the field that can be captured through mathematics and probability.

I had been fortunate to get an early headstart. My involvement with data analysis (together with that of my wife who then was working on her thesis in X-ray crystallography), goes back to the late 1950s, a couple of years before I thought of switching from topology into mathematical statistics. At that time we both began to program computers to assist us in the analysis of data – I got involved through my curiosity in the novel tool. In 1970, we were fortunate to participate in the arrival of non-trivial 3-d computer graphics, and at that time we even programmed a fledgling expert system for molecular model fitting. From the late 1970s onward, we got involved in the development and use of immediate ...

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