Professor Emerita Jessica Utts is interested in applying statistics to problems of broad interest to society, mostly through collaboration with scientists in other disciplines. “Some areas in which I have collaborated include air quality, transportation planning, medicine, avian science, nutrition, and most notably, parapsychology, which is the scientific investigation of possible psychic abilities,” she says. “I have also done extensive work in statistics education with a focus on statistical literacy for all citizens and on ethics in statistical education.”
Professor Emerita Utts is currently working on understanding and educating people about ethical issues in statistics and data science, focusing on three major aspects. “One aspect is to understand how statistical issues such as data quality and analysis impact machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms,” she explains. “Another aspect is how to educate users of these algorithms, including everyone from policy makers to citizens, on how these statistical issues affect the use and possible abuse of the results derived from the algorithms.” The third aspect deals with training statistics and data science students and educators to avoid mistakes based on data collection and analysis, which can introduce bias during algorithm development.
The Impact of Statistics
Statistical studies are crucial for societies and individuals to make informed decisions and to help us understand our world. “My goal is to help improve the impact of statistics by working on statistical studies with colleagues in other disciplines,” says Utts, “and by educating people on how to interpret results in the media that are based on statistical studies.”