Sunday, November 25, 2007

Is an Oxford degree worth the parchment it's printed on?

Statistics vs. Econ (Re: Is an Oxford degree worth the parchment it's printed on?);

1. A lot of interesting papers are being written by economists now, but I'm also a big fan of papers by psychologists. Psychologists will cram the results of ten different experiments into a single article. Instead of just exploring a question with a single dataset, they'll really try to figure things out, running different experiments to consider different possibilities.

As to the question of why don't statisticians write more interesting applied papers: I don't know. I suppose people go into statistics because they like math, not because they care about any particular application. I've seen some pretty crappy applied work by well known and respected statisticians--people whose theoretical work I respect a lot. The best scientific work by statisticians is probably not social science but rather in biology, the most famous example being R. A. Fisher's model unifying the genetics of discrete and continuous traits (I hope I'm not garbling that too much). Also, yeah, there are more economists, and they're in a more competitive field, so maybe they put more effort into promoting their own work. (Yes, I know, I'm one to talk, seeing as I promote my own work all the time, but maybe I'm not typical of statisticians.)

2. I think it's easier to get into a top statistics Ph.D. program than to get into a top econ program. I'm a big fan of stat Ph.D. programs, especially if you can work with a good advisor and do some interesting stuff. I don't know the deal with the math GRE. We used to require it at Columbia but we'd get a lot of applicants who hadn't taken it, and we'd consider their applications too, so it seemed only fair to diminish it to a recommendation rather than a requirement.

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