Statistics: A data science for the 21st century

Peter J. Diggle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The rise of data science could be seen as a potental threat to the long-term status of the statistics discipline. I first argue that, although there is a threat, there is also a much greater opportunity to re-emphasize the universal relevance of statistical method to the interpretation of data, and I give a short historical outline of the increasingly important links between statistics and information technology. The core of the paper is a summary of several recent research projects, through which I hope to demonstrate that statistics makes an essential, but incomplete, contribution to the emerging field of 'electronic health' research. Finally, I offer personal thoughts on how statistics might best be organized in a research-led university, on what we should teach our students and on some issues broadly related to data science where the Royal Statistical Society can take a lead.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)793-813
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A: Statistics in Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Data science
  • Electronic health research
  • Health surveillance
  • Informatics
  • National Health Service prescribing patterns
  • Reproducible research
  • Statistical education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


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