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Introduction to Statistical Methods for Biosurveillance by Ronald D. Fricker

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4

Descriptive Statistics for Comprehending the Situation

 . . . while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty. You can, for example, never foretell what any one man will do, but you can say with precision what an average number will be up to. Individuals vary, but percentages remain constant. So says the statistician.

Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of Four (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1890)

The purpose of summary statistics is to take a mass of raw data and condense it in some useful manner. With biosurveillance, the goal is to facilitate an understanding of some aspect of the biosphere. In terms of situational awareness (SA), biosurveillance systems must summarize the data in ways that facilitate ...

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